Child benefit is designed to support those who may need extra help when raising children. Currently there are two child benefit rates. For the eldest or only child the weekly rate is £20.70 and then for any additional children the rate is £13.70.
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However, child benefit should be claimed even by those who do not need monetary assistance.
If child benefit is not claimed, it is possible to miss out on other benefits such as guardian’s allowance.
Claiming it will also provide credits towards state pensions and the children themselves will automatically be issued a NI number before their 16th birthday.
However, for certain sections of the population child benefit may be more trouble than it’s worth.
High earners may have to pay what’s known as a “high income child benefit charge”.
If one partner among the parents or carers has an income over £50,000 a tax charge will be due. This charge will be one percent to pay back for every £100 earned over £50,000.
For people who earn over £60,000 the costs could be even more substantial. In this case, all of the received child benefit payments will have to be paid back to the government as income tax.
The government defines what counts as income in this case. The claimant will need to work out their adjusted net income, which is the total taxable income, before any personal allowances, minus things like gift aid (a tax relief for charity donations).
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This would add an extra element of admin and potential stress as a tax return would likely be needed, even if the person involved never usually needed one for their work.
According to the Money Advice Service, it may be worth continuing to claim child benefit even with these additional charges.
However, for those where it is not the case it is possible to request not to receive the payments anymore from the government. This is sometimes known as “opting out”.
There are two methods of stopping child benefit. The first is to fill in an online form.
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To do this a government gateway user ID and password will be needed. For anyone who doesn’t have this account set up they will be able to do so on the government website.
It should be noted however that the online form cannot be used by an appointee or authorised agent.
The second method is to contact the child benefit office directly by phone or post. The details for both of these methods are all made clear on the government website.
It is not not possible to stop child benefit payments if the claimant is using it to pay back an overpayment or to pay back certain other benefits from overseas.
It should also be noted that once the child benefit stops the original claimant’s responsibilities do not end.
If applicable, any tax charge must be paid for each tax year up to the date it stops. Thankfully, the government provides a child benefit tax calculator to help work out exactly what is owed.
Even when the payments stop the original claimant must keep in contact with the state. Any changes in family life must be reported if they affect entitlement to child benefit.
These changes can include if the child moves into education or training, if the child starts working or they marry.
If the decision is made to stop child benefit payments it is possible to restart it. Child benefit can be restarted if the claimant previously stopped it because of a tax charge and they still qualify for it overall.
To restart the process, the claimant will just need to follow a similar procedure to what they would have done previously, either applying online or through the child benefit office.
The government should have certain details recorded, as such they may even provide the claimant with any backdated child benefit they may be owed.
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