What is Child Benefit and how do I qualify?

Child Benefits are payments that you can claim for each of your children. The benefit is paid either every four weeks or weekly depending on your circumstances. It can be claimed by anyone who is eligible and it is paid independently of income or savings, though there are tax implications for high earners.

Who qualifies for Child Benefit?

Anyone who is responsible for a child can usually claim Child Benefit for that child; you don’t necessarily need to be the child’s parent.

If you are responsible for making payments towards the child’s upkeep then you can claim even if the child lives elsewhere as long as the payments you make are at least as much as the benefit you receive and the person with whom the child lives doesn’t receive child benefit; in other words it is paid only to one person.

Note: Child Benefit is paid only for children who are younger than 16 if they are not in education, or if they are in approved training up to the age of 20.

Children at university or studying on advanced courses in higher education do not qualify for child benefit.

How much is Child Benefit?

Currently, child benefit is £20.30 a week for the eldest qualifying child and £13.40 a week for every other qualifying child.

How is it paid?

It is paid every four weeks by direct payment into a bank account, building society or NS&I account.

People who are receiving other benefits such as Income Support can request it to be paid weekly.

I am a foster parent; do I still qualify?

If you are fostering a child or children, then you may be entitled to receive Child Benefit. However, if the local authority is contributing to the child’s accommodation and maintenance then you are unlikely to receive Child Benefit as well.

I am planning on adopting a child; what should I do about Child Benefit?

If you are in the process of adopting a child, then you should apply for Child Benefit as soon as the child comes to live with you. There is no need to wait until the adoption process has been completed.

Are you or your partner earning over £50,000 a year?

If you or your partner have an income of over £50,000 a year then although you can still receive Child Benefit you will be liable for additional income tax payments in the form of the High Income Child Benefit charge.

If you or your partner earn over £60,000 a year then the High Income Child Benefit charge will completely cancel out the Child Benefit payment so it isn’t worth claiming it.

Even if Child Benefit is paid to a lower earner it is the higher earner who will be charged with the additional tax if you live together.

You may decide that it is better not to claim Child Benefit, but it is still worthwhile completing the Child Benefit form as it will help contribute to your National Insurance credits and protect your entitlement to a Guardian's Allowance and other benefits.  Failure to declare income when receiving benefits may be considered benefit fraud.

I am paid over £50,000; is it worth reducing my income?

It might well be worthwhile reducing your taxable income in order to keep your Child Benefit. You can do this by paying into a personal pension or take part of your salary as childcare vouchers.

Another possibility is to register as a private limited company and taking part of your income as salary and part as a dividend. However you can’t do this if you are employed directly by a single company.

If you do decide on investigating such a scheme that we recommend that you seek advice on its legality. You should also consider speaking to a benefits specialist about making sure you are getting all your entitlements or welfare benefits.

We also recommend referring to this webpage from the Money Advice Service website to see how any savings and lump sums may affect benefit payments.

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Posted in: Family Law

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