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Check if a change affects your Child Benefit

This advice applies to Scotland

You must tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about any changes to your children or living arrangements. This is called a 'change of circumstance'.

You should report the changes as soon as you know about them - ideally within 1 month. This is important to make sure you get all the Child Benefit you're entitled to or to avoid being overpaid.

You have to report changes to HMRC even if another government department already knows about them. For example if you tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about a change that affects your other benefits, you still need to tell HMRC about it as well.

If you've used the Tell Us Once service to report the death of someone claiming a benefit, you don't need to tell HMRC too. Tell Us Once will let them know.

Changes to report about your child

Tell HMRC if your child:

  • is 16 - 20 and leaves education or training
  • is aged 16 or over and starts working for more than 24 hours a week
  • starts getting income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Universal Credit, tax credits, Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance
  • gets married or forms a civil partnership
  • dies or goes missing

You won't get Child Benefit anymore.

If your child starts living somewhere else or turns 16 your Child Benefit might also be affected.

If your child starts living away from you

Tell HMRC if your child:

  • lives away from you for more than 8 weeks in a row
  • goes abroad for more than 12 weeks - unless it's part of a school education programme or to get medical treatment
  • moves in with their partner
  • goes into prison for more than 8 weeks

You won't get Child Benefit anymore.

If your child goes into hospital or residential care for more than 12 weeks, you should tell HMRC. You might be able to keep getting Child Benefit if you're paying some money towards the child's needs, such as medicine, clothes or food. You have to be spending at least the Child Benefit amount on your child to keep getting Child Benefit.

If your child moves in with your ex-partner

You'll need to report this to HMRC over the phone - you'll be able to explain your situation and check whether you can keep getting Child Benefit.

If your ex-partner doesn't make a claim, you can keep getting the payments for 8 weeks.

You might be able to keep getting Child Benefit for longer if you're giving money to your ex-partner for the child and you spend at least the Child Benefit amount on your child's needs each month. HMRC will tell you when you phone them up.

HMRC - Child Benefit Office
Telephone: 0300 200 3100
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, Saturday, 8am to 4pm
Textphone: 0300 200 3103

Calls cost up to 40p a minute from mobiles and up to 10p a minute from landlines. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract.

If your child turns 16 years old

HMRC will send you a letter asking you about your child's plans for further education or training. You must reply to this letter, otherwise they'll cancel your Child Benefit claim on the 31 August after your child's 16th birthday.
If you don't get a letter, but want to keep getting Child Benefit, contact HMRC to let them know.

If your child stays in education or training after their 16th birthday, you can keep getting Child Benefit until they're 20.

If your child has left education or training, you'll keep getting Child Benefit until the first of the following dates after their 16th birthday:

  • the last day in February
  • 31 May
  • 31 August
  • 30 November

If your child has signed up with the armed services or a government-sponsored careers programme, to keep getting Child Benefit you must apply to HMRC in writing within 3 months of your child's education or training ending. You'll then get Child Benefit for 20 weeks from the date your child's education or training ended.

What counts as education or training

Your child is in education if they're studying for more than 12 hours on average a week. For example:

  • A-levels or Scottish Highers
  • NVQ Level 1, 2 or 3
  • BTEC National Diploma
  • a traineeship
  • home education - if it started before they were 16

They must have started or enrolled on the course before they were 19. Degree level, BTEC higher and NVQ Level 4 courses do not count as education for getting Child Benefit.

Your child will be in training if they're on a training scheme and not getting paid. They must have started or enrolled on the course before they were 19.

For example, the Employability Fund programmes or Get Ready for Work in Scotland.

You must tell HMRC if your child changes their name - it won't affect your Child Benefit amount.

Changes about you or your partner

If you get married, form a civil partnership or a partner moves in with you, you should report it to HMRC. These changes won't affect your Child Benefit amount.

Tell HMRC if you start getting payments from your local council or someone else for looking after the child. It might mean you're no longer eligible for Child Benefit.

There are extra rules about what happens to your Child Benefit if you or your partner start earning over £50,000, separate or divorce, have changes to your living arrangements or immigration status.

If you or your partner start earning £50,000 or more a year

If they live with you, you must tell HMRC if you or your partner's annual income increases to £50,000 or more before tax.

You'll start paying a 'Child Benefit tax charge'. Whoever is earning the most money will pay the tax charge - no matter who's claiming.

The more you earn over £50,000, the higher the tax. As long as your income doesn't go above £60,000 each year, it's still worth claiming.

If your income goes above £60,000 the extra you pay in tax will cancel out what you get in Child Benefit. You can choose to stop your claim so that you don't have to pay the tax - although if one of you isn't working or is working part-time it might be might be best to keep your claim going.

You can find out how much your tax charge will be and how to pay it on GOV.UK.

If one of you isn't working or is working part-time

If your partner is earning over £60,000 a year and you're not working or are earning less than £113 a week, you should keep claiming Child Benefit. This way you'll build up National Insurance contributions which count towards your state pension. It'll also mean your child automatically gets a National Insurance number when they reach 16 years old.

You can ask HMRC to keep the claim going but not pay you the benefit, so you won't have to pay the tax charge.

If the claim is in the name of the person who's working, contact HMRC to end their claim and start a new claim in the name of the non-worker.

If you've separated or divorced

You'll need to decide between you who'll keep claiming - it will usually be the person your child lives with most of the time.

If you want your ex-partner to claim instead of you, contact HMRC to end your claim and tell your ex-partner to make a new claim straight away.

If you can't agree who will claim

You can both make a claim and let HMRC decide who will get the Child Benefit. There are complicated rules about who has priority but HMRC will usually give Child Benefit to the person the child lives with the most.

You can't appeal HMRC's decision. To make sure you give HMRC all the right information about your situation so that they make the best decision, you can get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you start living somewhere else

You must tell HMRC if you:

  • move house - this won't affect your Child Benefit payment as long as the child still lives with you
  • go into prison for more than 8 weeks
  • go abroad for longer than 8 weeks - you can tell them before you leave or within 1 month of when you leave the UK

You can keep getting Child Benefit for the first 8 weeks that you're away from the UK - as long as you still live in the UK and aren't abroad for longer than a year in total. If the reason you're abroad is to get medical treatment for you or your family, or a family member has died abroad, you can keep getting Child Benefit for the first 12 weeks that you're away.

If you go abroad for longer than a year, your Child Benefit will stop from the date you leave the UK.

If your right to reside or immigration status changes

If you lose your 'right to reside' you won't be entitled to Child Benefit anymore. For example, if you're an EEA national who's stopped working.

If you're not an EEA national, a change to your immigration status might also affect your Child Benefit.

Your partner might be able to claim instead if they're responsible for your child and is a UK citizen or has a right to reside.

This is a complicated area, so it's best to get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before reporting the change to HMRC.

Reporting a change of circumstance

It's usually best to report the change online on GOV.UK. This makes it easy to include all of the information - and you save the cost of postage. You'll need to set up an online account called a Government Gateway account.

To set up the account, you'll need your National Insurance number, Child Benefit number and a mobile phone. For security HMRC will send you a text message with a code - you'll need to enter the code on GOV.UK to be able to set up the account and report the change.

When you've finished reporting the change, HMRC will confirm they've received it. It's a good idea to take a photo or screenshot of the confirmation screen in case you need to refer to it later.

If you can't report the change online

You can write to HMRC to report the change. Write 'change of circumstance' clearly at the top of the letter. Post the letter at the Post Office and ask them for proof of postage - you might need to prove when you posted it.

Send the letter to:

HM Revenue and Customs - Child Benefit Office
PO Box 1
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE88 1AA
United Kingdom

If you're near the 1-month deadline, phone the HMRC helpline. It's quicker to do this than writing a letter because HMRC will get your change straight away.

Make a note of the date and time you call. Also write down the name of the person you spoke to and the HMRC office they work in - for example Birmingham or Belfast. You might need these details if you need to prove you reported the change.

HMRC
Telephone: 0300 200 3100
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, Saturday, 8am to 4pm
Textphone: 0300 200 3103

Calls cost up to 40p a minute from mobiles and up to 10p a minute from landlines. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract.

If the change happened over a month ago

It's better to report a change late than not to report it at all - but it might mean you've been overpaid or underpaid. If you've been overpaid, you'll have to pay HMRC some money back.

Call HMRC as soon as you can. Make a note of the date and time you call - you might need to refer to it later. If you can, send them a letter afterwards to confirm the change you reported. This will help if you need to prove you reported the change.

You can still report the change online on GOV.UK if you can't call the helpline. It's quicker to do this than writing a letter.

You can still write to HMRC if you can't tell them over the phone or online. Write 'change of circumstance' clearly at the top of the letter. Ask the Post Office for proof of postage - you might need to prove when you posted it.

If you have a problem reporting a change in circumstance, you can make a complaint to the Child Benefit Office on GOV.UK.

Finding out how much you'll get after the change

HMRC will send you a letter telling you if your Child Benefit has been stopped or increased.

Check the letter to make sure HMRC has recorded the right change of circumstance.

If you disagree with HMRC's decision, you can ask them to think again - this is called mandatory reconsideration.

If you don't get a letter from HMRC in 30 days, call them to check they've recorded your change of circumstance.

If you get Housing Benefit

If a change in circumstance means your Child Benefit claim will stop, your Housing Benefit payments might be affected. For example, if your child has their own room, your Housing Benefit might be reduced by what's known as 'the bedroom tax'. You can check how the bedroom tax will affect your Housing Benefit.

You should contact your local council to tell them that your Child Benefit has stopped so they can update your Housing Benefit claim.

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