Changes to Child Benefit: How to Keep Your Payments

by from money.co.uk, Last Updated: 10 April 2014

Changes to child benefit payments for thousands of higher rate tax payers come in to effect in 2013. Here’s how to keep your tax-free child benefit if you’re a higher rate taxpayer.

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Following changes announced in The Budget 2012, child benefit will not be withdrawn in full from all higher rate tax payers.

Instead only those earning over £60,000 will lose the benefit in full, with earners over £50,000 losing 1% for every £100 they earn over the £50k threshold.

Those earning under £50,000 will get to keep their child benefit. We will shortly be posting a new guide to fully explain how these changes will impact on your finances.

If you are a higher rate taxpayer that currently receives child benefit payments you could lose thousands of pounds a year when changes to child benefit come in to effect in January, 2013.

Depending on how much you earn it may be possible to reduce your taxable income below the £50,000 threshold so you still keep these payments.

Here are your options:

Invest in a pension

The quickest and probably the easiest way to keep your child benefit is to increase, or begin making contributions to a pension.

This should be done by salary sacrifice and can be paid into an occupational pension run by your employer or to an independent personal pension.

Doing this will reduce your taxable pay and, depending on your contribution, could bring you beneath the higher tax rate threshold so you get to keep your child benefit payments.

If you have a family to clothe and feed, you may feel that paying into a pension is lower down your list of priorities, however putting more into your pension could leave you better off.

For a family with 3 children, child benefit is currently worth £2,449.20 a year, so paying an extra £1,000 or £2,000 in pension contributions would not only boost your retirement savings but is likely to leave you better off overall as well.

There are two main was to set this up, either by simply increasing the amount of your salary that is paid into your pension, or by sacrificing a part of your salary (perhaps a pending pay rise) in exchange for greater pension contributions from your employer.

Throw into the mix the tax relief that you get when you pay into a personal pension and opting to keep under the higher tax threshold this way can be very tax effective.

For more help deciding whether a pension is right for you, read our guide: Should I Get a Pension?

Childcare vouchers

Purchasing childcare vouchers from your pre-tax pay is another way to reduce your taxable income and could help you keep your child benefit.

Childcare vouchers can be used to pay for registered childcare at a nursery, playschool, childminder or after-school club.

Basic rate tax payers purchasing childcare vouchers for the first time can buy up to £55 of vouchers a week. So if your current salary is just over the higher rate threshold it's worth investigating this option.

Buying the full £55 a week of childcare vouchers could reduce your taxable income by £2,916 a year, which may be a sufficient amount for you to be classed as a basic rate tax payer. 

This is because tax-exempt benefits like childcare vouchers are excluded from the tax rate assessment. So, for the purpose of childcare vouchers, you can earn up to £45,391 a year before being classed as a higher rate tax payer.

Even if your child is too young to be left in child care, you can still purchase vouchers and use them at a later date. Although each voucher will have an expiry date they tend to last a long time.

For more information on childcare vouchers, read our guide: How to Get Help with Childcare Costs.

Register as a company

Reducing your pre-tax salary by purchasing childcare vouchers or investing in a pension will be the two options open to most people worried about losing their child benefit payments.

However, depending on your circumstances and terms of your employment you may be able to keep you child benefit by setting up a company.

Essentially this involves setting up your own private limited company, paying yourself a minimal salary and declaring the rest of the money you earn as dividends from your company.

However, this option is best suited to the self-employed as well as freelancers and consultants not directly employed by a business and simply isn’t an option if you are a full time employee earning an annual salary.

This option could also make your personal finances considerably more complicated so you may need to seek advice from an accountant to ensure you are paying the correct levels of tax on all areas.

Change your working patterns

If you or your partner are a higher rate tax payer but the other perhaps works part time or stays at home, it may be worth considering changing your working patterns so you remain eligible for child benefit payments.

The higher earner could take advantage of flexible working arrangements or switch to lighter working hours to drop below the income threshold, while the lower earner could look at increasing their hours if they work part time, or finding some other means of making up the difference.

While this may not be a feasible option for some couples, balancing your salaries a little more evenly could mean you get to keep the child benefit payments and leave you better off overall.

Salary sacrifice?

You may think that you can sign up for a host of different salary sacrifice schemes in order to reduce your income.However company cars, phones and other benefits are considered to be benefits-in-kind and part of your salary.

This means that you don’t get the same perceived salary deduction as with paying into a pension or purchasing child care vouchers.

Take a pay cut?

Taking a pay cut to reduce your income below the higher rate tax threshold so that you can keep your child benefit may seem like the easiest option.

However, while doing this could mean you lose less than doing nothing at all, paying the money you would have scarified into a pension would essentially have the same effect.

Regardless of your attitude to pensions, investing in your future in this way will leave you better off rather than just sacrificing the money so it's very much worth considering.

If you don’t have a pension, why not try following our Action Plan: How to get a Pension.

Before you take any action to reduce your taxable income it's important to research the full implications so that you make the right decision for your household finances.

Responses

add your response here

Hi martin. Can you help please. My company don't allow us to purchase child are vouchers as we have staff on minimum wage and if they tried to purchase them it would apparently make the company illegal and have to pay more to bring them back up to minimum wage?? Is this correct. Can I purchase vouchers personally? Thanks David Scotland

by dav7go, 29 Jul 2012

Hi still a bit confused with this. Am I right in thinking that as a higher rate tax payer I will lose my child benefit, even though my husband earns less than alf my income, yet a couple who earn say 45k each will keep their benefit? Confused

by kazj, 19 Nov 2012
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This advice is incorrect. HMRC say that Childcare Vouchers are NOT deductible when calculating your income for child benefit. I'd suggest removing this article

by gavin44, 15 Nov 2012

Hi Gavin,

I've just spoken with HMRC and they've confirmed that when you purchase Childcare Vouchers they DO reduce your income for Child Benefit purposes, in the same way making greater pension contributions would.

I hope that helps, Martin.

by Martin from money.co.uk, 15 Nov 2012

Ok thank you. I had exactly the same conversation an hour ago and they said the opposite. I think I'll check again to make sure!

by gavin44, 15 Nov 2012

Martin - i've just spoke with HMRC who have advised me that as childcare benefits are a 'Benefit in Kind' they don't reduce your taxable income and can't be offset to avoid this charge. Their advice is for me to register for self assessment.

by stewoods, 3 Jan 2013

Martin - believe it or not, HMRC have just contacted me to tell me their advice was incorrect. They pointed me towards the following link on their website -

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/paye/exb/a-z/c/childcare.htm

where (for people taking childcare vouchers pre the 2011 changes) the following applies

Childcare vouchers - to 5 April 2011
Definitions or restrictions
You provide an employee with vouchers to exchange for childcare up to and including 5 April 2011.

What to report, what to pay - up to £55 per week (£243 per month)
The first £55 per week is exempt from tax and NICs and doesn't need to be reported to HMRC, provided all the following conditions are met:

the vouchers are for childcare that has the appropriate registrations and approvals
the vouchers are available to your employees generally - relevant low-paid employees may be excluded - for further guidance read EIM16052 (see the link in 'Technical guidance')
the children cared for are your employees' children, or children for whom your employees have parental responsibility
the vouchers cover childcare up to the end of the week containing 1 September following each child's 15th birthday (16th birthday for children with a disability)

by stewoods, 3 Jan 2013

Blimey Stewoods! Well you've saved me a telephone call, I was just about to call them myself!

by Martin from money.co.uk, 3 Jan 2013

But is that the same if I have only been claiming the vouchers since April 2011 ????

by rob2002, 3 Jan 2013

Rob 2002 - if you click on the HMRC link above, it covers the situation for post April 2011 as well.

by stewoods, 4 Jan 2013

Thanks stewoods. My reading of it is that provided the above conditions are still met vouchers taken after april2011 still qualify for tax relief.

by rob2002, 5 Jan 2013
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Hi,
I wonder if you could clarify something..... Does the £8k basic personal allowance get taken into account, hence with no BIK's you could earn in effect £58K thus having a £50k taxable income?
Regards
John

by Sals, 15 Nov 2012

I have received a letter suggesting that child benefit changes from 7th January 2013, your article suggests April 2013. My employer has advise that salary sacrifice can only be changed in respect of pension contribution in April 2013.

by rachelm, 17 Nov 2012

On a salary of 34k , commission could increase earnings to 60k this year. This is unlikely for earnings to continue at this level and I would expect my partner to earn considerably less in the next tax year. Will this calculation on CHB be on earnings jan to mar or the apr to mar. Employment also includes a company car. Please would you be able to provide a basic calculation in the options of 1) pension 2)child care vouchers 3)registering a business so that we may continue to receive CHB. I am confused to how much this would affect take home on a monthly basis. I also think this us a very unfair system where two people could rearm 30k each take their tax free amount each receive CHB and be significantly better off!

by Watchthepennies, 23 Nov 2012

Can someone please tell me when they say earnings over 50K is the pre tax earing or net pay

by Ghostrider, 5 Jan 2013

I think it is you adjusted net income - which is essentially gross pay minus the elements discussed in the article above.

by rob2002, 7 Jan 2013

Is there anything else other than pensions and childcare vouchers that would count as salary sacrifice to reduce adjusted income? I have read that company cars don't count but what about life assurance, critical illness cover, private healthcare cover, travel insurance or salary security payments. All of these are deducted from my salary as part of our flexible benefits which reduces my net income?

by Boo-Bah, 11 Jan 2013

The HMRC is like most government departments cutting down on staff yet they have just caused more red tape with these child benefit payment changes. How on earth will they cope with gratuitous extra workload?

by creativesaver, 11 Jan 2013

Does anyone know if the BIK value on company cars is counted or the estimated value element? Often low Co2 cars and hybrids attract a much lower BIK - too much to hope that by swopping to these types of company car we can avoid loosing CB?

by Nevets, 5 Feb 2013

What about sharesave schemes please? If they come out before tax is applied will that be able to be deducted in the adjusted income?

by pauli82, 25 Feb 2013

Does anyone know whether what is paid in CSA to a former spouse count as a salary deduction for the calculation of income for child benefit?

by julie758, 8 Jun 2013
add a comment

Hi, do the changes to the child benefit affect a parent whose income is above £50,000, but who works out of the country so does not pay UK tax?

by allison1, 8 Oct 2013
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