Tax Credits: WTC elements
Both WTC and CTC comprise a number of elements. To be entitled to WTC, claimants must meet the criteria of the basic element. Only if those criteria are met can any of the other WTC elements be added to the claim. The rest of this section explains the WTC elements in more detail.
- Basic element of WTC
- Qualifying remunerative work
- Working hours
- Variable hours
- Term time and seasonal workers
- Foster carers and shared lives carers
- Workers who are laid off (Pre-coronavirus)
- Working hours are affected by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak (March 2020 onwards)
- Periods of leave and time off work
- Disability element of WTC
- Severe disability element of WTC
- 30 Hour element of WTC
- Second adult/lone parent element of WTC
- Childcare element of WTC
- 50+ element of WTC
WTC is payable to claimants who are in ‘qualifying remunerative work’ and who are on a low income or who incur eligible childcare costs. Payment can be enhanced if claimants fulfil the conditions of the various other elements of WTC.
The basic element is the foundation block of WTC. Without it, the claimant (or their partner in some instances) cannot access any of the other WTC elements. The Tax Credits Act 2002, s.10 states that entitlement for WTC is dependent on the claimant, or both or either claimants, being engaged in ‘qualifying remunerative work’. It is the basic element that defines qualifying remunerative work.
For claims from 6 April 2015 onwards, SI.No.605/2015 changed the first condition of the overall qualifying remunerative work test, so that claimants must be either employed or self-employed, as defined in the legislation.
The legislative definition of those terms are:
- Employed – employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship where the earnings under the contract are chargeable to income tax as employment income under Parts II-VII of the Income Tax (earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (other than by reason of Chapter 8 of Part 2, deemed employment).
- Self-employed - engaged in carrying on a trade, profession or vocation on a commercial basis and with a view to the realisation of profits, either on one’s own account or as a member of a business partnership and the trade, profession or vocation is organised and regular.
To be engaged in qualifying remunerative work a claimant must meet four conditions and not be in one of the specific, excluded groups.
The claimant must be either employed or self-employed and be working at the date of claim, or have accepted an offer of a job which is expected to start within 7 days of the making of the claim.
This condition requires the claimant (and potentially their partner) to fulfil certain age qualifications and be working for a minimum number of hours per week. There are three variations to condition 2. The claimant must satisfy the criteria of at least one of these to be treated as being in qualifying remunerative work.
In summary the requirements are as follows:
- In the case of a single claim:
- the claimant is aged 16 or over and works at least 16 hours a week and:
- is responsible for a child or qualifying young person (see our child tax credit page); or
- qualifies for the disability element of WTC (see understanding disability); or
- the claimant is aged 60 or over and works at least 16 hours a week; or
- the claimant is aged 25 or over and works at least 30 hours a week.
- In the case of a joint claim where there is no responsibility for a child or qualifying young person:
- the claimant is aged 16 or over and works at least 16 hours a week and qualifies for the disability element of WTC; or
- the claimant is aged 60 or over and works at least 16 hours a week; or
- the claimant is aged 25 or over and works at least 30 hours a week.
In a joint claim where there is no responsibility for a child or qualifying young person, only one of the claimants needs to work the minimum number of hours (set out above) but claimants who each work below the minimum requirement cannot aggregate their hours to meet the minimum hours requirement.
- In the case of a joint claim where there is responsibility for a child or qualifying young person:
- the claimant is aged 16 or over and works at least 16 hours a week and qualifies for the disability element of WTC; or
- the claimant is aged at least 16 and is a member of a couple where one partner works at least 16 hours a week and the total number of hours for which the couple work is not less than 24 hours a week; or
- the claimant is aged at least 16 and is a member of a couple where one partner works at least 16 hours a week and the other partner is incapacitated, in prison, in hospital or entitled to carer’s allowance; or
- the claimant is aged 60 or over and works at least 16 hours a week.
The requirement that couples with children must work at least 24 hours between them was introduced from 6 April 2012. Prior to that date, such couples could qualify for WTC by only working 16 hours per week. Both members of a couple who meet the 24 hour requirement are treated as being in qualifying remunerative work, even if one of them works less than 16 hours.
Richard and Sarah have two children. In 2011-2012, they receive WTC and CTC as Richard works 20 hours a week. Sarah does not work. From 6 April 2012, their WTC ended because they were not working a total of 24 hours between them. The couple have two choices, Richard can increase his hours to 24 or Sarah can get a job for at least 4 hours a week.
Ken is aged 61 and is married to Deidre. Their son was studying for his A-Levels at college. Ken works 20 hours a week. They receive WTC and CTC in 2011-2012. Their situation remained unchanged from 6 April 2012 because Ken is aged 60 or over and qualifies for WTC by working at least 16 hours as week. The 24 hour rule for couples does not apply in this situation.
The work must be expected to continue for at least 4 weeks after the making of the claim, or if someone hasn’t actually started work, from the date the work starts.
The work must be done for payment or in expectation of payment. The legislation gives no further definition of what this means, however for self-employed claimants this condition must also be read in conjunction with the definition of self-employment to the extent that the activity must be on a commercial basis and with a view to the realisation of profits and be organised and regular. HMRC guidance states:
Work done in expectation of payment means more than a mere hope that payment will be made at a future date. There should be a probability rather than just a possibility that a payment will be made. If a person reasonably expects payments for work done then the condition is satisfied. However, if the person knew before starting the work that payment was unlikely to be made, the remunerative condition is not satisfied. Work done setting a business up is not generally classed as being done in expectation of payment. A person will only reasonably expect to be paid for work done once the business is up and running. Where a retail trade is being carried on the price paid for the goods is not remuneration for the salesman. Whether a self employed retailer is working in expectation of payment cannot be determined simply by the mark up on goods sold. It does not necessarily matter that a self-employed earner might trade at a loss.(TCTM02411)
Even if a person meets all of the above conditions, they may still not be treated as being in qualifying remunerative work if any of the following exclusions apply. For this purpose, payment of a social security benefit is not work. Also excluded is a person who is:
- a charity worker, where the only payment the person receives is reimbursement of expenses;
- a respite carer whose income from their care duties is covered by the Rent a Room scheme ;
- a trainee engaged on a scheme for which a training allowance is being paid (unless the training allowance is chargeable to income tax as profits of a trade, profession or vocation);
- participating in the Intensive Activity Period or preparation for employment (Northern Ireland) programme under the relevant Jobseekers Allowance Regulations (unless they receive payment in connection with the programme which is chargeable to income tax);
- in receipt of a sports award, and not receiving or expecting any other payment;
- taking part in an employment zone programme and receiving no payment apart from a discretionary payment from the employment zone contractor, or training premiums.
- working (inside or outside a prison) while serving a custodial sentence or remanded in custody awaiting trial.
Condition 2 details the number of hours a claimant will need to work in order to claim tax credits. However, one of the most difficult areas of WTC can be determining someone’s working hours. Over the years, HMRC have provided very little guidance for people who don’t work a normal 35 hour week for one employer.
The Working Tax Credit (Entitlement and Maximum Rate) Regulations 2002 give some definition of working hours. For apprentices, employees or office-holders, the number of hours they are engaged in qualifying remunerative work is the hours of work they normally perform under their contract of service, apprenticeship or in the office in which they are employed.
In the case of agency workers, it is the number of hours they are normally paid for by the employment agency they are contracted to work for. Finally, for a self-employed person, it is the number of hours they ‘perform’ for payment or in expectation of payment.
In calculating the number of hours a person works any period of customary holiday, paid holiday, time allowed for meals or refreshment (unless the person expects to be paid for that time) is disregarded. Any time allowed for visits to hospital or other establishment for the purposes of monitoring a person’s disability is included but only if the person expects to be paid for that time.
Temporary relaxations are in place for the Coronavirus situation – see below for further details.
The legislation is of no further help to people who do not work the same hours each week. However, HMRC have various guidance in their manuals, on the GOV.UK website, the TC600 guidance notes and tax credit leaflets which give examples of how to deal with variable hours.
In summary, a common sense approach must be taken if someone has a recognised cycle. So for example, if a person usually works 28 hours per week but takes two days off unpaid and only works 17 hours one week, their normal working hours will still be 28. This can be the case even if a person works less hours for several weeks and a judgement needs to be made in each case where there has been a change in normal working hours.
Periods of unpaid leave of up to 4 weeks do not generally disrupt normal working hours. Similarly people who do regular overtime can include that in their normal working hours, even if they don’t have that overtime occasionally. For example, if a person is contracted to work 25 hours a week but with overtime has worked 30 hours every week for the last 12 months, it is unlikely that his working hours will fall below 30 if there are two weeks where he only works 25 (due to lack of overtime).
Some people work different hours each week. If there is a pattern to the work, for example a person works 14 hours one week and 18 the next, there is a two week cycle and the person can look at their average across that cycle. In this example the normal working hours would be 16.
Special rules exist for people who work at a school, other educational establishments, or other places of employment and have a recognisable annual cycle to their employment. This cycle must include holiday periods (e.g. school vacations) during which they do not work. In this situation, such periods are disregarded when working out normal working hours for WTC purposes.
Nasreen is a dinner lady in a secondary school who works 9 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday during term time: a 30 hour week. During 10 weeks of holidays she does not work. The school holidays are disregarded in determining the number of hours Nasreen works, so she is treated as working 30 hours a week all year round.
However, seasonal workers who do not have an annual cycle and work only a few months of each year (such as summer fairground workers) can only claim WTC for the periods they actually work. The TC600 guidance notes include the following example:
Julie usually does 35 hours work a week for three months each summer. She can claim Working Tax Credit during this three-month period but when she finishes this seasonal work, her Working Tax Credit will stop, unless she gets another job within a week of finishing.
Generally the work done by foster carers and shared lives (or adult placement) carers which is for payment is treated as remunerative work and they can, therefore, be entitled to WTC. Although, respite carers who care for a person who is not a member of their household, and whose payments from the local authority (or voluntary organisation or primary care trust) are exempt from income tax under the Rent a Room scheme, are not able to count their caring activities as qualifying remunerative work for WTC purposes. This exemption also applies to foster carers and shared lives/adult placement carers who opt for the Rent a Room scheme.
HMRC instructions tell TCO staff to accept the number of working hours declared on the claim form. This is despite the fact that income tax concessions applying to both sectors from 2003/2004 mean that the vast majority of carers are treated as having a nil income/profit.
However, the position is not necessarily straightforward. Where a person is working as a foster carer or shared lives carer and is entitled to ‘qualifying care relief’ their profits for a tax year from the provision of qualifying care are deemed to be nil for Income Tax and Class 4 NICs purposes if his or her total receipts from qualifying care do not exceed their individual qualifying amount. This can result in many foster carers and shared lives carers having no profit and no loss for income tax purposes and also tax credit purposes.
Where their total receipts from qualifying care exceed their qualifying amount can choose between;
- calculating their taxable profits in the normal way on total receipts less actual expenses and capital allowances (the ‘profit method’); or
- treating as their taxable profit the amount by which their total receipts from foster care exceed their qualifying amount, without any separate relief for expenses or capital allowances (the ‘simplified method’).
Whichever method is used, the profits are chargeable to Income Tax and Class 4 NICs and should also be included as income for tax credits.
HMRC’s guidance states that in these scenarios above they will be considered to have met the definition of a self-employed worker.
However, HMRC also state that where a foster carer or shared lives carer makes a loss their activities may not meet the conditions which apply to the self-employment test, in which case they will not necessarily be regarded being in qualifying remunerative work for tax credit purposes. For claims from 6 April 2015 onwards, claimants must be either employed or self-employed. For tax credit purposes, HMRC define self-employed as meaning the self-employed activity is done on a commercial basis with a view to realising a profit and it must be organised and regular. See Understanding self-employment for more information.
Note: We have raised this as an issue with HMRC and have asked for further clarification.
HMRC say that the hours worked as an apprentice count as remunerative work for WTC purposes where there is a contract of employment or apprenticeship and payment for the work done whilst on the scheme is classed as earnings (as opposed to reimbursement of expenses) and subject to income tax and National Insurance contributions.
However, if the only payment is a non-taxable training allowance, monies in connection with participating in the Intensive Activity Period (part of jobseekers’ allowance schemes), a sports award or other tax-exempt discretionary payments or just reimbursement of expenses, working hours done under the apprenticeship will not count as remunerative work.
For claims before 6 April 2015, the number of hours a self-employed person works were those done for payment or in expectation of payment. No further guidance is given. This is a particularly important area given the rise in compliance investigations by HMRC where they believe a person is not doing work in expectation of payment. See below where self-employed hours are reduced due to the Coronavirus situation.
For claims from 6 April 2015 onwards, the number of hours a self-employed person works should be taken as those done in pursuing the activity where is it done on a commercial basis, with a view to making a profit and which is organised and regular.
The HMRC compliance manual (CCM6755) states that any hours which will be costed to the client/customer as spent in producing/providing the individual order or service count when working out hours for self-employment. In addition, the following activities also count:
- trips to wholesalers and retailers
- visits to potential clients for giving quotes etc
- time spent on advertising or canvassing business
- cleaning the business premises or space used specifically for business purposes
- cleaning a vehicle used as part of the business-e.g. a taxi
- travelling for the purposes of the business, but not from home to their business premises
- research work e.g. where the claimant is an established author. Research carried out by persons who are not established authors, but are working in the hope of one day becoming established will not count.
The guidance goes on to say that:
The amount of time being spent on these activities may also depend upon how established the business is. If a business is in its early days, it is more likely that the claimant will have to invest large amounts of time and effort in building up business contacts for little or no outcome. However, over time the amount of unproductive time spent in this way reduce considerably. If it does not, it may be an indication that the work is not genuinely remunerative.
The compliance manual also acknowledges that particular trades may present claimants with more difficulty in calculating their working hours and guidance is given for bed and breakfast owners, artists, writers, property renovators and door to door sales people (CCM6760). See the understanding self-employment page for more detail about compliance investigations and the self-employed.
In the earlier years of tax credits, HMRC issued guidance explaining how people who are laid off or who have a temporary reduction in working hours should calculate their working hours.
This guidance has changed in response to the Coronavirus situation (see below for information where hours have changed due to Coronavirus)
Providing their hours are reduced or they are laid off for four weeks or less, there is no interruption to normal working hours for tax credits. However, if people know from the outset that their hours are likely to be reduced for more than 4 weeks, or that they have been laid off indefinitely or for more than 4 weeks, the change in hours will be effective from the date the claimant is notified of this. This 4 week ‘grace’ period is separate from the four week run-on which commences after the grace period.
A claimant is laid off on 8th January. Her employer tells her that she can expect to go back to work on 1st February. Because she has been laid off for less than 4 weeks she is treated as being in remunerative work.
On 26th January, her employer tells her that they do not know if she will be able to go back to work at all. Because she has been laid off for more than 4 weeks and her employer does not know when she will be able to return to work, she is treated as if she finished work on 26th January. The 4 weeks run on would apply from 26th January. (TCTM02461)
HMRC have other guidance at TCTM02457 which suggests that each case must be considered individually and even longer periods off work may not disrupt the person’s normal working hours if they have a cycle of work. In practice, HMRC tend to apply the four week criteria above as standard.
The position of Directors for WTC has caused much discussion in the tax world over the last few years. However, HMRC have confirmed that for WTC purposes, a Director, as an office holder, does not have to be engaged under a contract of service in order to claim WTC. This interpretation of the regulations means that Directors do not need to pay themselves the National Minimum Wage in order to claim tax credits as such a requirement only exists where there is a contract of service.
Working tax credit entitlement is based on meeting certain working hour thresholds (16,24 or 30 depending on your circumstances). The number of hours you work is generally based on your ‘normal’ working hours.
Due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, some people may have their hours of work reduced, be laid-off temporarily, be ‘furloughed’ (under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) or be made redundant. Claimants need to report a change of circumstances to HMRC when their normal working hours change – temporary changes may not need to be reported. The table below sets out the position specifically in relation to the impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak (March 2020) regarding when claimants must report a change in their normal working hours to HMRC.
NOTE: This is based on the information from HMRC at March 2020 – due to the speed of developments during the outbreak, this outline is subject to change/updating – please ensure you check back at regular intervals on this website and GOV.UK.
What does it mean for working tax credit?
When to report a change to HMRC?
Temporary reduction in hours: For example, claimant normally work 32 hours a week but hours have been reduced to 12 hours a week due to the Coronavirus crisis
HMRC will treat the claimant as continuing to work their normal hours (those before the reduction) until the Job Retention Scheme closes, even if you are not using the scheme*. There will be no change to your working tax credit entitlement during that period
Claimants do not need to notify HMRC about the temporary reduction because of coronavirus until the Job Retention Scheme closes*.
Permanent reduction in hours: For example, claimant usually work 35 hours a week but their employer reduces their hours to 20 permanently.
The claimant’s normal hours will change for working tax credit. Depending on how their hours change it may mean they get less working tax credit or they may no longer qualify for working tax credit. If the claimant no longer qualifies, they may get a four week run-on of working tax credit.
Claimants need to notify HMRC as soon as the change to their hours becomes permanent.
Temporarily laid-off: This happens where the claimant’s employer does not have enough work for them but intends to recall them when work becomes available again.
Due to the current Coronavirus crisis, HMRC is treating claimants as continuing to work their normal hours (those before the temporary lay-off) until the Job Retention Scheme closes, even if they are not using the JRS scheme*.
Claimants do not need to notify HMRC when they are laid off if it is temporary because of coronavirus, until the Job Retention Scheme closes*.
NOTE: if the lay-off is made permanent at any point or the claimant is made redundant they must report this change straight away to HMRC.
Furloughed workers: This is where the claimant agrees with their employer to vary their contract to become ‘furloughed’ – this usually means employees are placed on unpaid leave.
But for people who are furloughed in the current situation (under the Coronavirus job Retention Scheme) their employer may be entitled to a grant to cover 80% of salary (up to a maximum amount) via the coronavirus job retention scheme.
Due to the current Coronavirus crisis, HMRC will treat claimants as continuing to work their normal hours (those before the furlough) until the Job Retention Scheme closes, even if they are not using the scheme*. There will be no change to working tax credit entitlement during that period.
Claimants do not need to notify HMRC when they are furloughed temporarily because of the coronavirus until the Job Retention Scheme closes.
Unpaid leave: This is where the person is still employed but has agreed with their employer that they will take leave that is unpaid. There will not usually be any variation to the employment contract.This might apply in cases where the person cannot work because they have childcare responsibilities due to coronavirus but their employer does not agree to furlough them.
|Due to the current Coronavirus crisis, HMRC will treat claimants in this situation as continuing to work their normal hours (those before the furlough) until the Job Retention Scheme closes, even if they are not using the scheme*.||Claimants do not need to tell HMRC when they are furloughed temporarily because of coronavirus until the Job Retention Scheme closes*.|
Self-employed: If hours of work reduce or the self-employed work temporarily ceases
As long as the claimants is still trading (i.e. hasn’t completely closed down their business) HMRC will treat them as continuing to work their normal hours (those before the reduction due to coronavirus situation) until the Job Retention Scheme closes, even if they are not using the scheme*. There will be no change to working tax credit entitlement during that period.
Claimants do not need to tell HMRC about a temporary change in hours due to the coronavirus until the Job Retention Scheme closes, even if they are not using the scheme*.
NOTE: If a claimant ceases self-employment completely and doesn’t intend to continue trading then they need to report that as a change of circumstances to HMRC when the self-employment ceases.
Redundancy: Claimants loses their job
If the claimant no longer qualifies for working tax credit because their work stops permanently and they lose their job, they may qualify for a four-week run-on of working tax credit.
You need to tell HMRC about this change as soon as possible.
NOTE: If the claimant loses their job and gets another job within 7 days, assuming the new job meets the hours requirements for WTC, they will remain entitled to WTC despite the gap but they should notify the details of the new employer to HMRC.
Many people will continue to be treated as ‘in work’ during periods of sickness or illness for working tax credit purposes.
If the claimant continues to be treated as in qualifying remunerative work for their period of sickness or illness under existing rules then they only need to notify HMRC of a change at the point they are no longer treated as in work.
Entitlement to the childcare element of WTC is linked to working hours – as long as the claimant is (are) treated as working their normal hours, they will continue to qualify for the childcare element, as before.
*- The HMRC press announcement referred to both the Job Retention scheme and the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) as a reference point for tax credits to continue treating people as in qualifying remunerative work. Due to the way SEISS works, some self-employed people may claim in May and receive payment early June and so it is not clear when that scheme ‘ends’ in individual cases. For that reason, the table above refers only to the Job Retention scheme which, at present, has a clearer end date of 31 October 2020.
The Working Tax Credit (Entitlement and Maximum Rate) Regulations include provision for people who are absent from work to continue to be treated as being in qualifying remunerative work during certain periods of leave.
During any period a claimant receives maternity allowance, statutory maternity pay, or adoption pay they are treated as being in qualifying remunerative work. The same should apply during absences from work whilst on ordinary maternity leave (26 weeks), ordinary adoption leave, or the first 13 weeks of additional maternity leave or adoption leave.
During any period that a claimant receives ordinary statutory paternity pay, additional statutory paternity pay or is absent from work whilst on ordinary paternity leave they are treated as being in qualifying remunerative work on the hours they were undertaking prior to the period of leave.
During any period that a claimant receives statutory parental bereavement pay, they are treated as being in qualifying remunerative work on the hours they were undertaking prior to the period of leave.
Parents of babies born between 3 April 2011 and 5 April 2015 had the right to take additional paternity leave. This resulted in changes to the tax credit system for those taking paternity leave which meant claimants were also treated as in qualifying remunerative work during any period of additional statutory paternity leave providing that during that period they would have been paid additional statutory paternity pay had the conditions of entitlement in Parts 2 or 3 of the Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (General) Regulations 2010 been satisfied.
This meant, effectively, that they could continue to receive tax credits for so long as their partner would have been entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) or additional SMP. For example, a woman who took 24 weeks of maternity leave and received SMP for that period. She then went back to work and her husband took additional paternity leave. He was entitled to take 26 weeks additional paternity leave but could only continue to receive tax credits for 15 weeks, being the balance of time remaining on the woman’s SMP entitlement.
For children born or adopted from 5 April 2015 onwards, parents can qualify for shared parental leave. This scheme allows parents to share statutory parental leave periods and there is more information on the GOV.UK website. It can be used alongside of, or instead of, traditional maternity or adoption leave.
Statutory shared parental pay is payable for part of the leave period. For tax credit purposes, a claimant will be regarded as remaining in remunerative work whilst they are in receipt of statutory shared parental pay, providing they were in qualifying remunerative work (or treated as being) immediately prior to the period of statutory leave.
The person must have been engaged in qualifying remunerative work immediately before the period of leave began for any of the above extensions to apply. For first time parents, when determining whether they meet this requirement, they should be treated as if they already had responsibility for a child or qualifying young person.
HMRC interpret these provisions as requiring the claimant to continue to meet the conditions in Regulation 4(1) Working Tax Credit (Entitlement and Maximum Rate) Regulations 2002. This interpretation has specific impact on couples with children who are subject to the requirement to work 24 hours. A couple, where one partner works 16 hours and the other 8, are both treated as being in qualifying remunerative work because their combined working hours total 24. If the person working 8 hours goes on maternity leave, they continue to be treated as being in qualifying remunerative work. However, if the person working 16 hours loses their job during the maternity leave period, neither claimant will be treated as being in qualifying remunerative work from the point at which the job is lost (subject to the four week run-on) because their total working hours are now less than 24.
Ian and Barbara have two children. Ian works 16 hours and Barbara works 8 hours a week. Barbara is expecting her third child and goes on maternity leave in July 2020. She continues to be treated as being in qualifying remunerative work during that period. Ian loses his job in September 2020. The couple's WTC ceases at that point because neither of them are treated as in qualifying remunerative work as their combined hours are less than 24.
Megan and Peter have one child. Megan works 22 hours a week and Peter works 4 hours a week. They qualify for WTC and CTC from April 2019. Megan goes on maternity leave in July 2019. In October 2019, Peter loses his job. As Megan is only treated as working 22 hours a week, the couple will lose their entitlement to WTC from October 2019.
Although HMRC have taken this interpretation of the regulations, alternative interpretations may be possible and could be challenged by advisers at an appeal tribunal. The same rules apply to the self-employed, if they would have been entitled to the relevant benefits or leave had they been employed.
Claimants are treated as in qualifying remunerative work during certain periods of sick leave if they are in receipt of:
- statutory sick pay
- short term lower rate incapacity benefit
- income support on the grounds of incapacity for work
- employment and support allowance
- national insurance credits on the grounds of incapacity or limited capability for work
The last three bullet points are time limited to 28 weeks. A self-employed person is also treated as in qualifying remunerative work for up to 28 weeks if they would have qualified for one of the benefits listed above had they been employed.
Both employed and self-employed claimants must have been in qualifying remunerative work immediately before the period of sick leave began in order to continue to receive WTC.
A claimant is treated as being in qualifying remunerative work for any period during which they are on strike for up to 10 days at a time, provided they were working up to the beginning of that period. If the strike goes on for longer than 10 days, they will lose their WTC entitlement; but curiously any strike pay still counts as income for tax credit purposes.
Anyone receiving pay in lieu of notice is not treated as working during the period covered by the pay, but this does not affect their entitlement to the four-week run-on payment of WTC if they qualify for that.
If a claimant is suspended from work while complaints or allegations against them are investigated, they are still treated as being in qualifying remunerative work, as long as they were working up to the date they were suspended.
A period of unpaid leave lasting not more than 4 weeks, which is not part of a series of periods spent on unpaid leave, and which does not combine with other factors to reduce normal working hours should not, in its self, affect normal working hours.
It is not unusual for periods of time off of work for different reasons to be linked or run into each other, for example a claimant experiencing short period of sick leave immediately prior to a period of statutory maternity leave.
The rules say that during a period of statutory maternity, paternity, shared-parental leave or sick leave a claimant is treated as being in remunerative leave if they were engaged in qualifying remunerative work immediately before the period of leave started. This leads to a somewhat ambiguous position as to whether a person needs to have actually been physically engaged in remunerative work or whether it's acceptable that they were simply treated as being engaged in qualifying remunerative work. For example, where a period of sick leave immediately follows a period of maternity leave or vice versa.
Several appeal cases before the Upper Tribunal have tried to shed light on this area, see our case law section for CTC/5443/2014 and CTC/1945/2015. None of the cases, and nothing in HMRC's guidance, provides a definitive position for the general principle but the implication of the case law so far is that someone cannot rely on a period where they were treated as in remunerative work as meeting the requirement to be engaged in qualifying remunerative work before a different period of leave. However, the point is arguable and it is certainly worth taking any case to an appeal Tribunal.
Having said that, a claimant is required to normally work at least a certain minimum number of hours a week which means they aren't required to always work those hours each and every week and this should allow some leeway for those who have a short absence from their normal working hours immediately before or after a period of formal absence from work during which they are treated as being engaged.
Tax credits legislation allows a gap between jobs of up to 7 days without any interruption to WTC. A claimant is treated as in qualifying remunerative work for the required number of hours as if they have been engaged in such work during these 7 days.
In certain circumstances, claimants continue to be treated as being in qualifying remunerative work for a period of 4 weeks after their work ends. This is called the ‘four week run-on’. The four week run-on was introduced in its original form from 6 April 2007.
The date the 4 week run-on starts is the date that the change of circumstances regarding work is applied by HMRC. From that date, if a claimant has been working for not less than 16 or 30 hours a week, and they either drop their working hours to below 16 a week or stop working altogether, they will be treated as continuing to work for the four weeks immediately afterwards. Thus their WTC entitlement will continue during those four weeks after they have finished work, or reduced their hours.
It should be noted that HMRC have issued guidance in their technical manual (TCTM 02461) which allows claimants who are laid off from work for less than 4 weeks from the offset to remain in qualifying remunerative work. Similar relaxations have been put in place for people whose hours temporarily fall due to coronavirus or who are laid off or furloughed as a result. This is on the basis that a disruption to normal working hours does not change their normal pattern. The 4 week run-on is different and in addition to this ‘grace’ period.
The original regulations were unclear whether the childcare element was included in the four week run-on, but subsequent amendments made clear HMRC’s policy intention that it should be.
Originally, the four week run-on did not apply to WTC claimants who worked 30 or more hours a week and whose working hours fell to below 30 but above 16 hours a week. From July 2009, the four week run-on was extended to this group of WTC claimants.
Also with effect from July 2009, parents whose working hours fall to the extent that the childcare element of WTC is lost (but entitlement to the basic and other elements of WTC remains) also receive a run-on of this element for four weeks.
Further changes from April 2010 mean that if a means tested benefit is claimed during the four week run-on (which under normal tax credit rules would entitle a person to maximum tax credits) maximum credits will not be payable and the normal income test will be applied.
As the qualifying criteria for WTC changed again in April 2012 for couples with children, so has the criteria for the four-week run-on. Where a couple’s combined working hours fall below the required 24, the four week run-on will apply.
When tax credits were introduced in April 2003, they replaced several other benefits including Disabled Person’s Tax Credit (DPTC). The disability element of WTC replicates DPTC by allowing a claimant who qualifies for it to work fewer hours than normally required for entitlement to WTC. If a claimant doesn’t have responsibility for children, or is aged 60 or over, it means they can claim working tax credit by working at least 16 hours rather than 30. It is also worth a considerable amount of money to low income claimants. The disability element in 2019/2020 is worth £3,165 a year. To qualify for the disability element of WTC, the person who meets the qualifying disability rules must be in qualifying remunerative work, normally working at least 16 hours per week.
Disability plays an important part in the tax credit system, but often it is one of the most difficult parts to understand. A claimant with disabilities may not necessarily be disabled for tax credit purposes. HMRC consider the disability element of tax credits as high on their list of areas where people make errors, indeed their own staff find it a difficult area to deal with. As a result much HMRC compliance activity is directed towards claims involving a disability element.
You can find the full qualification criteria for this element in our understanding disability section.
This element is different to the disability element. Claimants can get this even if they don’t qualify for the disability element. This is because there is no requirement that the disabled person must be in paid work for a minimum number of hours to get this element so if the worker has a partner who doesn’t work but who meets the condition below, they will get the severe disability element included in the WTC award.
You can find the full qualification criteria for the severe disability element in our understanding disability section.
Single claimants who work at least 30 hours per week will have the 30 hour element included in their award.
Similarly, if one member of a couple works at least 30 hours per week, the 30 hour element can be included. If both members work at least 30 hours, only one 30 hour element is included.
The 30 hour element is also included if at least one of the claimants is responsible for a child or qualifying young person and the total number of hours which the couple work is at least 30. This is subject to the requirement that at least one person is in qualifying remunerative work of at least 16 hours per week.
Lone parent element
Single claimants who are responsible for a child or qualifying young person are entitled to the lone parent element.
Second adult element
Where a couple claim jointly, they will normally be entitled to have a second adult element included in their award. However there are some exceptions;. no second adult element is included where:
- one of the claimants gets the 50 plus element, and neither of them works 30 or more hours a week (note the 50+ element ceased from 6 April 2012); or
- one of the claimants is serving a custodial sentence of more than 12 months; or
- one claimant is subject to immigration control under Section 115(9) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
But these exclusions do not apply if one or both of the joint claimants are responsible for a child or young person. The first exclusion does not apply if one of them can claim the disability element or if they qualify for WTC because one of them is aged 60 or over and works at least 16 hours.
Claimants can get help with up to 70% of their childcare costs through the childcare element of WTC. The childcare element is largely covered by Regulations 13-16 Working Tax Credit (Entitlement and Maximum Rate) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2005). Although normally paid to the main carer alongside child tax credit (CTC), it is part of WTC and therefore has various work conditions attached to it.
You can find full details of the childcare element in our understanding childcare section.
The 50+ element of WTC ceased for all claimants from 6 April 2012, even if they had not received a full 12 months entitlement.
Last reviewed/updated 7 May 2020