Help paying for childcare

4. Tax-Free Childcare

You can get up to £500 every 3 months (£2,000 a year) for each of your children to help with the costs of childcare.

If you get Tax-Free Childcare, the government will pay £2 for every £8 you pay your childcare provider via an online account.

You can use it to pay for approved childcare.

If you’ve already registered, you can sign in to your childcare account.


You and your partner

You can usually get Tax-Free Childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:

  • in work - or getting parental leave, sick leave or annual leave
  • each earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week - this is £120 if you’re over 25

This earnings limit doesn’t apply if you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago.

If you’re not working, you may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

You’re not eligible if either you or your partner has a taxable income over £100,000.

Your child

Your child must be 11 or under and usually live with you.

Children stop being eligible on 1 September after their 11th birthday. You can’t apply for a foster child.

If your child is disabled you can get up to £4,000 a year until they’re 17.

Your childcare provider

Your childcare provider must be signed up to the scheme before you can pay them and benefit from Tax-Free Childcare.

Check with your provider to see if they’re signed up.

If you get Universal Credit, tax credits or childcare vouchers

You can’t get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or childcare vouchers.

You’ll need to stop claiming these if you apply for Tax-Free Childcare. If you get childcare vouchers, you can continue to get them for up to 90 days.

Which scheme you’re better off with depends on your situation. Use the childcare calculator to work out which type of support is best for you.

When to apply

You can usually apply now if your child was born on or after 1 April 2013, or is disabled.

If your child is older, you can get an email when you can apply.

You can make a payment the day after you put money in your account. It usually takes 3 working days for the money to reach your provider’s account.

If you’re on parental leave

If you want Tax-Free Childcare for your baby, you must wait until 2 weeks before going back to work to apply. You can apply now for older children born on or after 1 April 2013 that you’re not on parental leave for.

Apply for Tax-Free Childcare

You’ll need your details (and your partner’s, if you have one), including your:

  • National Insurance number
  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed

It takes 20 minutes to apply.

As part of your application, you’ll find out if you’re eligible for both Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare. You may find out straight away, but it can take up to 7 days.