Universal credit: Existing tax credit claimants
This section of the website looks at how existing tax credit claimants are affected by the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC).
Existing tax credit claimants can continue with their tax credit awards until they either:
- make a claim for UC because they choose to
- have to claim UC because of a change in their circumstances or;
- they are covered by DWP and HMRC’s formal migration exercise to move remaining tax credit claimants to UC (or pension credit).
DWP initially started testing the processes they will use (called 'Move to UC') to move existing tax credit claimants across to UC in July 2019. The rules for this test phase allow for up to 10,000 tax credit claimants to be moved to UC during the pilot. It had been expected that the pilot would be scaled up from November 2020 so that by December 2023 remaining tax credit claimants would have been moved to UC (where that is possible). In February 2020, it was announced that the full migration process would take longer than expected and would be complete by September 2024. In March 2020, the pilot to test the processes was suspended due to the impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK. DWP resumed their work on the formal migration exercise during 2022 and from May 2022 they began to issue formal migration notices. At the start of this exercise, DWP say they will develop their processes slowly and the first 500 migration notices will start to be issued in just 2 areas (Bolton and Medway). It is expected the work will gradually pick up in other areas and in greater numbers ahead of scaling up to complete the migration fully by the end of 2024.
We explain the latest information in our managed migration ('Move to UC') section.
We expect that those who have reached state pension credit age will be moved to pension credit in a similar exercise, although no details have been released about this. Most mixed age couples will be expected to move to UC but there are some exceptions. See our pensioners page for more information.
The only way existing tax credit claimants can move to UC outside that formal exercise is through either ‘voluntary migration’ or 'natural migration'. This can only happen if:
- they choose to make a UC claim (voluntary migration)
- they have a change in circumstances that ends their tax credit claim but they need to continue claiming support (e.g. change from joint to single household) (natural migration)
- they need to make a claim for another benefit that has been replaced by UC. For example, a tax credit claimant who needs to make a claim for help with their rent would have claimed housing benefit previously. However, housing benefit (in most cases, although there are some exceptions) has been replaced by UC. So to access help with their rent they need to make a UC claim which in turn will end their tax credits claim. (natural migration)
We explain more about how tax credit claims are brought to an end in these situations in our making a universal credit claim section. We also consider what happens if someone accidentally or mistakenly claims UC.
We explain which changes of circumstances will end a tax credits claim and require a UC claim in our changes of circumstances section.
Finally, we look at how HMRC finalise tax credit claims for someone moving to UC in our finalising tax credits claims section and what happens to tax credit debt when someone moves to UC in our tax credits debt section.
Last reviewed/updated 23 May 2022