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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: Stability of the relationship

The stability of a relationship should be considered when determining whether two people are living together as husband and wife (LTAHAW) or as civil partners (LTACP).

Considerations of the relationship’s stability

  • the way in which two people spend their time together, and
  • the way that this has changed while they have been together 
  • whether they intend to get engaged or married
  • on what basis they split household chores and responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
  • whether they are both involved in caring for any children who live with them
  • whether they tend to spend their leisure time together or separately
  • whether they normally take joint holidays
  • whether they plan any future activities or responsibilities jointly or separately
  • whether the relationship has a volatile history i.e. the couple is known to have had several splits and reconciliations.

This list is not exhaustive. All the claimant’s circumstances should be considered when deciding whether two people are LTAHAW or LTACP - no single factor will be decisive.

Example 1 - on/off relationships

Two people who are LTAHAW often argue and occasionally one of them goes to a friend’s for a night or two before making up with their partner and returning home. This wouldn’t affect their joint claim as they would still be classed as a couple.

However, when one of the couple decides to end the relationship and moves out their joint claim should end as they are no longer living together as a couple. Either or both of them may be able to claim tax credits as a single person dependant on their new circumstances.

Some months later the former partners decide to get back together, even though one of them intends to continue spending odd nights away from home. They should make a new joint claim as soon as they begin living together again as husband and wife.

Example 2 - on/off relationships

Two people who are LTAHAW often argue and occasionally one of them goes to a friend’s house for a few nights before making up with their partner and going home. Each time this happens, they pack their bags, say they are ending the relationship and never want to speak to or hear from their partner again. The remaining partner believes their relationship is over each time they leave but they always get back together within a few days. Usually they’re only gone for one or two nights but more recently it’s been for longer periods. It is the claimant(s) responsibility to decide whether they are still LTAHAW. The initial periods of separation form a pattern that suggests their joint claim would not be affected during the periods they are apart but that may not apply to longer periods depending on their circumstances. If they decide they are no longer LTAHAW their joint claim should end for periods they spend living apart, and they may be able to claim tax credits as a single person dependent on their circumstances.

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The length of time two people have been together

The length of time two people have been together is likely to indicate the stability of the relationship, but is not decisive. There is no specified time limit that two people must have been living together. The following questions should be considered:

  • Is there strong evidence that the two people have been LTAHAW or LTACP from the point that they began living together?
  • Are the two people living together as a temporary arrangement without commitment on either side?

The fact that two people have lived together as though they were married or civil partners in the past should not be lead to an assumption that a stable relationship currently exists.

Example - new partners

Two people have been going out with each other for a while and they now spend most of their time at one property. One moves most of his things into the other’s house and they eat, sleep, share chores and socialise together. They split some of the bills but maintain financial independence. Some weeks he returns to his Mum’s for a night to pick up post and see family and friends. They should make a joint claim from the time they begin living together as civil partners.

Note: this indicator should not be used in isolation as all factors should be considered as outlined in TCTM09341.