Tax Credits: How to claim

To be entitled to tax credits you must claim them. There is no entitlement without a claim.

In the early years of the tax credits system, it was possible to claim online. This facility was withdrawn due to fraudulent attacks, and although it was announced in the Autumn Statement 2016 that the online claims facility would be available again from April 2017, this option is still not available. In the meantime, the majority of claimants need to obtain a paper claim form from HMRC, although there are some other methods of claiming that are available to certain groups of claimants which are explained below.

It should be noted that as Universal Credit full service becomes available, most people cannot make a fresh tax credit claim and will need to claim UC instead although there are some exceptions to this rule. There is more information about claiming UC in our UC section.

Obtaining a paper claim form

The paper claim form is called the TC600. You can see the notes, which includes a sample of the current form, in our forms, notices and checklists section. You can obtain a claim form either online or by phone:

Due to the roll-out of UC, when a person contacts HMRC to make a new claim to tax credits, HMRC will check that a claim to tax credits can be made and is not prevented by UC full service availability in the area.

Where the person lives in an area where UC full service is already available and exceptions do not apply, the helpline adviser explains that they are prevented from claiming tax credits and directs them to claim UC.

It is standard procedure for the Tax Credits helpline to ask for the claimant’s name, address and National Insurance number when they request a claim form. The helpline may also ask the claimant some questions to estimate what their entitlement might be. In some cases, the helpline may refuse to issue a claim form as they believe that the claimant does not meet the criteria, or the claimant does not have a national insurance number or the entitlement check shows entitlement as NIL. This should not happen and if it does full details of the date, time and operator name should be taken and used to prepare a complaint. It is not the function of the helpline to make a decision on entitlement to tax credits, especially not on the basis of a single phone call.

Welfare rights groups who have registered with HMRC and are authorised users are sometimes able to provide their tax credit clients with tax credit claim packs. Authorised users (including Welfare Rights offices) can email the bulk order-line to place their requests for claim packs.

Areas that are moving to UC full service

In areas where UC is due to be rolled out, people may still wish to claim tax credits before UC becomes available.

HMRC have issued a reminder about the way such requests should be handled if the new tax credit claim is for a household which is in a postcode area becoming a UC full service area within 3 weeks of the date of the request.

Where the person lives in a postcode area which will become a UC full service area in the next three weeks (from the date of the request), they will be asked if they want to make a new claim for tax credits over the phone and if they do, HMRC advisers will take the new claim over the phone. This process is in places because if a claim pack is sent in the psot and received after an area becomes part of the UC full service area, the person will be prevented from claiming tax credits. HMRC's published timescale for issuing a tax credit claim pack is up to two weeks.

If the person does not want to make their claim over the telephone, HMRC will still send them a claim pack in the post but they will explain that if the completed claim is received back on or after the date the postcode becomes a UC full service area, the claim will be rejected.

HMRC would like to encourage people to make their claim by telephone in these circumstances and recommends that any advisers who hold stocks of tax credit claims should encourage prospective claimants to ring HMRC to check if they can make a claim before handing them a claim pack.

Where the person lives in a postcode area which is not due to become a UC full service area within three weeks or they meet one of the exceptions, HMRC will issue a tax credits claim pack in the normal way.

Security procedures -

In 2010, HMRC introduced a new security procedure whereby they require people to answer questions based on their Experian credit data. This security system is still used today.

Full details of the IDAS security procedure can be found in our dealing with HMRC section.

One point to note about the IDAS security arrangements is that it is unclear whether advisers can request paper claim forms on behalf of claimants. We are seeking confirmation from HMRC about this.

In and out of work process (IOW)

Before Universal Credit replaces tax credits and the other working-age legacy benefits, the DWP run an in and out of work process (IOW) which is aimed at those claiming income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income support to enable their benefit claims to be quicker and easier when moving in and out of work.

The process was originally tested in six pilot areas from September 2007 and from December 2008 to March 2010, the process was rolled out nationally.

The basis of the process is that when a claimant moves from benefits into work, they will be able to end their out-of-work benefits and claim their in-work benefits in one phone call. Similarly if they stop working, the process works in reverse ensuring their in-work benefits stop when they should and enabling claims to out-of-work benefits.

The process is led by Jobcentre Plus. The claimant makes a single call to them and they take the relevant information and pass it to Local Authorities (for housing benefit and council tax benefit) and to HMRC for tax credits.

From a tax credits perspective there are some points to note:

The introduction of Universal Credit will mean the IOW becomes less important once claimants have moved over to claim Universal Credit, as UC covers working-age claimants whether or not they are in work and as they move between being in and out of work. It is not possible to claim UC and tax credits at the same time.

Fast track claims via Jobcentre Plus

A fast track process is in place between Jobcentre Plus and HMRC for certain types of claim. Historically this included anyone moving from a Jobcentre Plus benefit into work, or for those claiming a Jobcentre Plus benefit making a claim for child tax credit. The In and Out of Work process has meant the fast track is no longer needed for many of these claims.

However, there are still some customers of Jobcentre Plus who will still require a claim for tax credits and who cannot be helped through the In and Out of Work process.

In particular the process can be used for refugees who wish to claim tax credits, one of the benefits being that Jobcentre Plus can verify documentation which should ensure the claim is put into payment more quickly.

The process is manual and requires Jobcentre Plus to complete a TC600 claim form and send it with a pro-forma to a specialist unit in HMRC. This means that it should be dealt with much quicker than the normal HMRC channels, although it should be noted that the claim may still be subject to various pre-award checks. HMRC guidance suggests that claims should be put into payment within 7 working days.

This can be a useful process for vulnerable claimants and Jobcentre Plus staff should be reminded of the process to ensure it is used in appropriate cases. There is some HMRC guidance about the process in their manual. The process is clerical as described above.

Tell us once – telephone claims

The ‘Tell us Once’ service for reporting a death has been available in most areas since 2011. Initially used for reporting deaths, in some areas it does cover births as well. If someone reports a death to a registrar and wants to take part in Tell us Once, information about the death with be passed to HMRC for tax credits purposes.

Part of the service includes the registrar helping new parents fill in their child benefit claim form. In addition, parents who are on certain income-based benefits will be given a special phone number for HMRC Tax Credit Office which will allow them to make a fast track claim over the phone. More information about the process for births is available in the HMRC manual.

Last reviewed/updated 26 September 2018