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Check if a change affects your tax credits

This advice applies to Scotland

You must tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about any change in your money, work or home life if you’re getting tax credits. HMRC calls this a ‘change of circumstances’. 

You have to tell them even if it seems like a small change, or it’s only for a short time. For example, let them know if your partner or child moves out - even if they’re planning to move back in with you.

You might be paid too much in tax credits if you don’t report a change in circumstance. This is called an ‘overpayment’ and HMRC will make you pay the extra money back.

Most changes have to be reported within 1 month. It’s best to report all changes as soon as possible to make sure you’re getting the right amount of tax credits. Don’t wait until it’s time to renew your tax credits claim each year.

Changes you have to report

You have to report all of these 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.

Changes about your partner

You must tell HMRC within 1 month if:

  • you stop living with your partner
  • you start living with a new partner
  • you get divorced, married or form a civil partnership
  • your partner dies
  • your partner leaves the UK for 8 weeks or more
  • your partner loses their 'right to reside' and you're claiming child tax credits - you can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if this happens

As well as telling HMRC about these changes, you’ll also need to make a new claim for tax credits - your old claim and payments will stop. This is because HMRC works out your tax credits differently depending on if you’re single or in a couple. If you’re in a couple, HMRC will count what you both earn - this is called a ‘joint claim’. If you’re single or your partner doesn't have the right to reside, they’ll only count what you earn - called a ‘single claim’.

If your partner has a disability

You must also tell HMRC if your partner starts or stops getting a benefit because of a disability. There’s no deadline for reporting this change, but it’s important to tell HMRC as soon as possible to make sure you’re getting the right money. You won’t have to make a new claim.

Changes to do with your children

You must tell HMRC within 1 month if a child you get tax credits for:

Other changes to do with your children

You must also tell HMRC if:

  • you have a baby or another child comes to live with you
  • your child starts or stops getting a benefit because of a disability

There’s no deadline to report these changes, but you still have to let HMRC know. It’s important to tell them as soon as possible to make sure you’re getting the right money.

Changes to do with childcare

You must tell HMRC within 1 month if:

  • you’re no longer paying for childcare
  • the amount you pay for childcare goes down by £10 or more a week
  • you get help from someone else to pay for childcare
  • your childcare provider isn’t approved any more - you can check if your childcare is approved is approved on the Scottish Care Inspectorate register

Other changes to do with childcare

You must also tell HMRC if:

  • you start paying for approved childcare
  • you change childcare provider
  • you stop getting help with childcare costs

There’s no deadline to report these changes, but you still have to let HMRC know. It’s important to tell them as soon as possible to make sure you’re getting the right money.

Changes to your work and money

You must tell HMRC within 1 month if:

Other changes to your work or money

You must also tell HMRC if:

  • your income for the year goes up by £2,500 or more
  • you start claiming other benefits or your benefits change
  • your working hours increase to 30 hours a week (30 hours in total if you’re a couple with children)
  • your bank details change

There’s no deadline to report these changes, but you still have to let HMRC know. It’s important to tell them as soon as possible to make sure you’re getting the right money. 

You should also tell HMRC if your income goes down - it might mean you can get more in tax credits.

Changes to where you live or your immigration status

You must tell HMRC after you move house. There’s no deadline to report this change, but it’s a good idea to tell them as soon as possible.

You must tell HMRC within 1 month if you or your partner:

  • leave the UK for 8 weeks or more - you can tell them before you leave or within 1 month of when you leave the UK
  • lose the ‘right to reside’ and are claiming child tax credits - you can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if this happens

If you’re single and your immigration status changes, claiming tax credits could affect your right to stay in the UK. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to find out if you need to report the change.

 

Reporting a change of circumstance

It’s best to report the change online on GOV.UK if you're within the deadline. This makes it easy to include all of the information HMRC needs - and you save the cost of postage. 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 report the change.

When you’ve finished reporting the change, HMRC will confirm they’ve received it. It’s a good idea to save or print this confirmation screen in case you need to refer to it later.

You can write to HMRC if you can’t report the change online. Write ‘change of circumstance’ clearly at the top of the letter. Send it by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt - you might need to prove when you posted it and when it arrived.

Send the letter to:

HM Revenue and Customs
Tax Credit Office - change of circumstance
BX9 1ER

Phone the tax credits helpline if you’re near the 1-month deadline and can’t report the change online. It’s quicker to do this than writing a letter because HMRC will receive 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 Preston or Belfast. You might need these details if you need to prove you reported the change.

HMRC tax credits helpline
Telephone: 0345 300 3900
Textphone: 0345 300 3909
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturday, 8am to 4pm
Sunday, 9am to 5pm

Calls cost up to 45p a minute from mobiles and up to 12p a minute from landlines. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract.

Give as much information about the change as you can. For example if your partner has moved out tell HMRC their name, when they moved and what their new address is.

If you've missed the 1-month deadline

It’s better to report a change late than not to report it at all.

Call the tax credits helpline as soon as you can. Make a note of the date and time you call - you might need to refer to it later.

You can report the change online on GOV.UK if you can’t call the helpline. It’s quicker to do this than writing a letter because HMRC will receive your change straight away.

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. Send it by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt - you might need to prove when you posted it and when it arrived.

HMRC might make you pay a penalty of up to £300. You can ask them not to do this if you have a good reason for reporting the change late - for example if someone in your family was seriously ill. Explain why you didn’t report it before and ask them not to make you pay the penalty.

If HMRC still says you have to pay the penalty, you can ask them to reduce the amount you have to pay. Explain why you think they should do this - for example if you told them as soon as you realised.

You can also ask HMRC to let you pay the penalty in smaller amounts over a longer period of time.

Finding out how much you’ll get after the change

HMRC might ask you for more information so they can work out how much to pay you. This is called a ‘compliance check’. They'll send you a letter telling you:

  • what information you need to send them
  • when you need to send it by

It’s important to send HMRC the information they’re asking for - if you don’t, they might stop your tax credits. Call the tax credits helpline if there’s anything you can’t send them.

When HMRC has got the information they need they’ll write to you to explain how your tax credits will change. Look out for the letter - this confirms they’ve recorded your change of circumstance and will be paying you the right amount of tax credits.

Check the letter to make sure HMRC has recorded the right change of circumstance. You’ll need to tell them within 1 month after the date on the letter if they’ve made a mistake. You can ask your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re not sure the letter’s right.

If you don’t get a letter from HMRC in 30 days

Call the tax credits helpline to check that HMRC have recorded your change of circumstance. You’ll need details of what the change was and when you told them about it - for example proof of postage if you sent a letter.

Try to save the extra tax credits if you think HMRC might be paying you too much. This will make it easier to pay it back if HMRC tells you to.

Your nearest Citizens Advice can help if you’re having trouble reporting a change of circumstance.

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