Tax-Free Childcare: Who is an eligible person?

TFC top-up payments can only be made to someone if they are an 'eligible person' for the entitlement period.

Who is an eligible person?

A person is an eligible person for an entitlement period if:

The conditions that need to be met depend on whether you are considering the eligible person (the claimant) or their partner, as the table below shows:

Eligibility conditions                              Need to be met by an eligible person Need to be met by claimant's partner
Being in the UK YES NO
Responsibility for the child YES NO
Paid work YES YES
Maximum income YES YES
Receipt of other benefits YES YES

We explain the requirements for each eligibility condition if our 'eligibility conditions' section. In order to be an eligible person, the claimant's partner must meet conditions shown in column 3 of the table. If they do not, the claimant will not be an eligible person and will not be entitled to receive a TFC top-up.

Who counts as a partner for TFC?

For TFC, two people are regarded as partners at any time if they are both at least 16 years old at that time and either:

Where two people are parties to a polygamous marriage, they are not regarded as partners for purposes of the Act if:

A polygamous marriage means a marriage during which a party to it is married to more than one person and which took place under the laws of a country which permits polygamy.

Temporary absence

Where a person's partner is temporarily absent from the household at the date of the declaration of eligibility (this is the date the person makes their declaration that they are an eligible person for the entitlement period and is part of the initial claim process and the ongoing re-confirmation process), they are not to be treated as a partner for TFC purposes if:

Further guidance on determining partner status

At present, there is no published guidance on who counts as a partner for the TFC scheme. However, the definition is the same as that used for Universal Credit. The following guidance will be helpful on establishing if two people are living together as a married couple:

Universal Credit - ADM Chapter E4

Partners - Tax Credits vs TFC

The definition of a partner for TFC is different to the definition given to a 'couple' in the tax credits system. This means it is possible that a single tax credit claimant, if they chose to claim TFC instead, could be treated as having a partner under the TFC system and vice versa - someone who is part of a couple for tax credits could be treated as a single person for TFC.

For tax credits, two people will be members of a couple (and required to make a joint claim) if they are:

a) a man and woman who are married to each other are neither -

     (i) separated under a court order; or

     (ii) separated in circumstances in which the separation is likely to be permanent,

b) a man and woman who are not married to each other but are living together as husband and wife,

c) two people of the same sex who are civil partners of each other and are neither -

     (i) separated under a court order; or

     (ii) separated in circumstances in which the separation in likely to be permanent,

d) two people of the same sex who are not civil partners of each other but are living together as if they were civil partners.

There is no 'same household' requirement in tax credits which means that a married couple who live apart are still treated as part of a couple whereas under the TFC/UC definition, it is possible that they would be treated as living in separate households and therefore they wouldn't be classed as partners.

In TFC there is no separation under a court order or separated in circumstances likely to be permanent requirements.

In the majority of cases, the outcome will be the same for tax credits and TFC. However, advisers should be aware of the different definitions.

Last reviewed/updated 1 July 2022