High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC) and Child Benefit Claim Planning
Although the HICBC is based on annual income, both entitlement and relationship status are considered weekly, not annually. Life is not always steady with relationship changes and incomes having potential to rise and fall, meaning the situation is not always the same from one year to the next. The charge applies for all children in the household, regardless of whether the child is the taxpayer’s own child or their partner’s.
Speaking in very general terms, the HICBC applies where a claimant or their partner has annual adjusted net income of over £50,000. Adjusted net income is total taxable income before any Personal Allowances but after certain tax reliefs have been deducted.
HIBC applies on a sliding scale on adjusted net income over £50,000. Where the income is over £60,000 the whole Child Benefit is clawed back via the charge. The more children there are in the house, the greater the impact.
If taxpayers are affected by the 100% HICBC, there are a reasons why it is beneficial to actually claim child benefit but then to opt out of receiving the payments. This an alternative to not claiming child benefit at all. The benefits of this include:
The claimant will receive National Insurance credits whilst their child is under 12 years of age, which can be useful to protect state pension entitlement, for example if he or she is not working. If the claimant does not need the credits, they can be transferred to a relative who cares for the child as Specified Adult Childcare credits.
Having a live child benefit claim means payments can be backdated by up to two years, if circumstances change. Without a live claim, payments can only be backdated by three months.
Opting out of payments, rather than paying the charge through Self Assessment, can avoid the need to do a tax return if the HICBC is the only reason for filing one.
The child will automatically be issued with a National Insurance Number when they turn 16, avoiding the need to apply for one.
Reducing adjusted net income in the £50,000 to £60,000 range will also reduce exposure to HICBC as well as bringing an Income Tax saving. For example, this can be achieved by making pension contributions or gift aid payments. This is best demonstrated by an example. If a taxpayer with two children (£1,885 child benefit received in this tax year) and with an adjusted net income of £55,000 makes a £1,000 gross pension contribution, this will cost just £412 after the 40% tax relief of £400 and a reduction in the HICBC of £188. If the pension contribution is made via a salary sacrifice arrangement it would give an additional saving in National Insurance contributions.
There are very detailed rules about who a taxpayer’s partner is in this context, especially where relationships begin and end. The partner does not need to be a spouse or civil partner.
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