You can get up to £500 every 3 months (up to £2,000 a year) for each of your children to help with the costs of childcare. This goes up to £1,000 every 3 months if a child is disabled (up to £4,000 a year).
If you get Tax-Free Childcare, you’ll set up an online childcare account for your child. For every £8 you pay into this account, the government will pay in £2 to use to pay your provider.
You can get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as 30 hours free childcare if you’re eligible for both.
What you can use Tax-Free Childcare for
You can use it to pay for approved childcare, for example:
- childminders, nurseries and nannies
- after school clubs and play schemes
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 your childcare provider is in an EEA country
You may be able to use Tax-Free Childcare to pay a provider based in a European Economic Area (EEA) country. Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to check.
Your eligibility depends on:
- if you are working
- your income (and your partner’s income, if you have one)
- your child’s age and circumstances
- your immigration status
If you are working
You can usually get Tax-Free Childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:
- in work
- on sick leave or annual leave
- on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave
If you’re on adoption leave, you cannot apply for the child you’re on leave for unless you’re going back to work within 31 days of the date you first applied.
If your working pattern has changed because of coronavirus (COVID-19)
You may still be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare if you’re temporarily working less and either:
- you’re on furlough through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- you’re claiming a Self Employment Income Support Scheme grant
If you’re not currently working
You may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.
You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.
You’ll need to expect to earn a certain amount over the next 3 months. This is at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average.
For example, over the next 3 months you expect to earn at least £1,853.28 - the National Living Wage for people over 23.
If you have a partner, they’ll need to expect to earn at least this much too.
If you or your partner are temporarily earning less than this amount because of coronavirus, you may still be eligible. You must be furloughed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or claiming a Self Employment Income Support Scheme grant to qualify.
If you’re self-employed and do not expect to make enough profit in the next 3 months, you can use an average of how much you expect to make over the current tax year.
This earnings limit does not apply if you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago.
If you or your partner have an expected ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000 in the current tax year you will not be eligible. This includes any bonuses you expect to get.
Your adjusted net income is your total taxable income before any personal allowances and minus things like Gift Aid.
Your child must be 11 or under and usually live with you. They stop being eligible on 1 September after their 11th birthday.
Adopted children are eligible, but foster children are not.
If your child is disabled you may get up to £4,000 a year until they’re 17. They’re eligible for this if they:
Your immigration status
To be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare, you (or your partner if you have one) must have a National Insurance number and at least one of the following:
- British or Irish citizenship
settled or pre-settled status, or been living in the UK before 1 January 2021 with the right to reside
- permission to access public funds - your UK residence card will tell you if you cannot do this
If you’re living in an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you (or your partner if you have one) might still be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare if:
- your work is in the UK
- the work started before 1 January 2021
- you’ve worked in the UK at least once every 12 months since you started working here
This is known as being a ‘frontier worker’.
If you get tax credits, Universal Credit, a childcare bursary or grant, or childcare vouchers
You cannot get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as claiming Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers.
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.
If you successfully apply for Tax-Free Childcare, your Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit will stop straight away. You cannot apply for them again.
You must tell your employer within 90 days of applying for Tax-Free Childcare to stop your childcare vouchers or directly contracted childcare. They’ll then stop giving you new vouchers or directly contracted childcare.
You will have to give HMRC evidence you‘ve left your employer’s childcare voucher scheme, for example:
- a copy of the letter telling your employer you’re leaving the childcare voucher scheme
- copies of your payslips showing your pay before and after you’ve left the scheme
Wait until you get a decision on your Tax-Free Childcare application before cancelling your Universal Credit claim.
If you or your partner get a childcare bursary or grant or expect to do so within the next 3 months, you cannot get Tax-Free Childcare.
Apply online for Tax-Free Childcare
If you apply for Tax-Free Childcare and someone else already gets 30 hours free childcare for that child, their 30 hours will stop at the end of the next term. You will be eligible for 30 hours free childcare instead.
If you have a partner
You must include your partner in your application if you are:
- married or in a civil partnership and live together
- not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are
Their employment and income will not affect your eligibility if they:
- are or will be absent from your household for more than 6 months
- are a prisoner
You and your partner cannot both have accounts for the same child.
If you are separated
You and your ex-partner need to decide who should apply if you are jointly responsible for your child.
If you cannot decide, both of you must apply separately and HMRC will decide who gets a childcare account.