If you’ve ever tried to claim Child Benefit, you’ll know the process is rather convoluted. Since 1977, you’ve had to fill in a paper form, pop it in the post and wait up to 16 weeks for your first payment. This has now changed. On 3rd January 2024, HMRC announced a new digital service that lets you claim Child Benefit online.

Who can claim Child Benefit?

You can get Child Benefit if you are bringing up a child who’s under 16. You can also get it if you are responsible for a young person under the age of 20 who is in approved education or training. Full eligibility criteria are here.

How much is Child Benefit?

There are two rates of Child Benefit. You get £25.60 per week for your eldest (or only) child. For each subsequent child, you get £16.95 per week. However, if a family splits up and the children live in different households, each parent or partner can claim £25.60 for the eldest child that lives with them. Conversely, if two families join together, you can only claim £25.60 for the eldest child. The others qualify you for £16.95 per week.

There is no limit to the number of children you can claim for. However, the money you receive counts towards the benefit cap.

Other reasons for claiming Child Benefit

Aside from the extra income, there are two good reasons for claiming Child Benefit. Firstly, you can get National Insurance Credits that count towards your State Pension. This is helpful if one parent doesn’t work as it helps preserve their pension entitlement. Secondly, each child will automatically receive a National Insurance number just before they turn 16. This saves you from having to apply for one.

High Income Child Benefit Charge

If you or your partner’s adjusted net income is over £60,000, you may have to pay the High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC). This is a strange rule because, if one parent’s income is £60,001 and the other parent earns nothing, you’ll be drawn into the HICBC. On the other hand, if both parents earn £59,999 you won’t be.

For individuals with income between £60,000 and £80,000, the rate at which HICBC is charged is reduced to 50%, and will equal one per cent for every £200 of income that is more than £60,000.

If you do have to pay the HICBC, you can choose to get Child Benefit payments and pay a tax charge via your Self-Assessment Tax Return. Alternatively, you can opt out of payments and not pay the tax charge. However, if you do the latter, you’ll need to fill in a claim form to make sure you get the National Insurance Credits that count towards your State Pension. Filling in this form will also ensure each child is automatically assigned a National Insurance number.

If your net income is just over £60,000, there are various strategies you can use to take yourself out of the HICBC. These include making small Gift Aid donations or increasing your personal pension payments. THP’s accountants can advise you on how to do this.

Further reading: Not claiming Child Benefit? You could be damaging your state pension

How to claim

As we said at the beginning of this article, you can now claim Child Benefit online. You can find this service here. You’ll need the child’s birth certificate, your bank details, your NI number and your partner’s NI number (if applicable).

You can claim Child Benefit 48 hours after you’ve registered your child’s birth. Alternatively, you can claim immediately once a child comes to live with you. If you apply later, it’s worth knowing that Child Benefit can be backdated three months.

Once you’ve claimed Child Benefit online, it can now take as little as 3 days for the money to reach your account. After your first claim, subsequent payments are made every 4 weeks on a Monday or Tuesday.

Only one parent or guardian can claim Child Benefit. Because they will receive the National Insurance credits towards their pension, it’s usually better for the person who earns least (or doesn’t work) to claim.

How can THP help?

Claiming Child Benefit online should now be a simple task, so you won’t need our help to do so. However, thanks to inflation and wage increases, increasing numbers of people are now facing the High Income Child Benefit Charge. If this has happened to you, talk to one of our accountants today. They’ll be able to advise you on ways of adjusting your net income so that it falls below the HICBC threshold.

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About Jon Pryse-Jones

Since joining THP in 1978, Jon Pryse-Jones has been hands on with every area of the business. Now specialising in strategy, business planning, and marketing, Jon remains at the forefront of the growth and development at THP.

An ideas man, Jon enjoys getting the most out of all situations, “I act as a catalyst for creative people and encourage them to think outside the box,” he says, “and I’m not afraid of being confrontational. It often leads to a better result for THP and its clients.”

Jon’s appreciation for THP extends to his fellow team members and the board.  “They really know how to run a successful business,” he says.  He’s keen on IT and systems development as critical to success, and he continues to guide THP to be at the cutting edge and effective.

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