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HMRC internal manual

Tax Credits Technical Manual

Decision Making, Joint or Single claims, Considerations when deciding if two people should be treated as a couple: Introduction

Social Security Commissioners Decisions R(G)3/71 and R(SB)17/81

The legal definition of a couple in the Tax Credits Act is often considered alongside well established criteria developed initially by the Social Security Commissioners in 1974 with decision R(G)3/71. The Department for Work and Pensions (formerly the Benefits Agency) then amended these criteria when including them in the Supplementary Benefit Handbook to be more specific. The Social Security Commissioners (Commissioner Rice) in decision R(SB)17/81 agreed that these changes were consistent with decision R(G)3/71. Their name was changed from a ‘criteria’ to ‘admirable signposts’ by Commissioner Woolf in decision ‘Crake vs Supplementary Benefits 1982’. Since then these ‘signposts’ have remained essentially unchanged, however further rulings have increased the supplementary detail.

These ‘signposts’ are the only indicators to help form a sustainable view of whether two people are living together as husband and wife or as civil partners for the purposes of a tax credits claim. The weight and worth of each indicator will vary from relationship to relationship and an officer of HMRC should conclude their decision on the balance of evidence, based on all the facts.

The signposts include:

  • living in the same household TCTM09342 
  • stability of the relationship TCTM09343 
  • financial support TCTM09344 
  • sexual relationship TCTM09345 
  • dependent children TCTM09346 
  • public acknowledgement TCTM09347 

For information regarding absences from the home and temporary absences from the UK see TCTM09360.