How the marriage allowance works – £250 a year for some married couples

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The marriage allowance gives some married couples and those in a civil partnership an extra £250 a year. Not everyone’s eligible for it – find out how the marriage allowance works and how to claim.

How the marriage allowance works

The marriage allowance (sometimes called the married couples’ allowance) gives some married couples and those in a civil partnership a tax break. In order to qualify, one of you needs to be a basic rate taxpayer and the other must not pay tax. You can claim the marriage allowance online, by phone or post.  It was introduced on April 6th 2015, and if you haven’t claimed it so far, you can backdate your claim.

Figures from HM Revenue and Customs show that around a million married couples (out of four million who are eligible) are not claiming the marriage allowance.

Here’s what you need to know about the marriage allowance:

  • The tax break is worth £250 in tax year 2019-20. That’s because someone not earning anything at all or earning less than the personal tax allowance could transfer up to £1,250 of their unused allowance to their husband, wife or civil partner. At the basic rate of tax of 20%, a transfer of £1,250 is worth £250 a year.

SAVVY TIP: This figure will change on April 6th every year. The amount of the personal allowance that someone can transfer to their husband or wife is 10% of the personal allowance, which is £12,500 in tax year 2019-20 (hence the figure of £1,250).

  • The tax break isn’t available to higher rate taxpayers. If you have a couple where one partner pays tax at 40% or 45% and the other doesn’t pay tax, the married couples’ tax break wouldn’t give them any benefit.
  • The tax break is available to married couples (whether straight or gay) and civil partners.
  • The tax break is worth up to £4.81 a week in 2019-20 (based on a tax break of £250 a year).
  • The tax break was introduced on April 6th April 2015. The tax allowance is paid through PAYE/the self-assessment system.
  • You can register for this allowance online. You can claim by phone or post if you prefer, although doing it online will be much quicker. If you claim by phone or post you’ll need your National Insurance number and that of your husband, wife or civil partner.

SAVVY TIP: You can apply for the marriage tax allowance on the website. Be aware that some people have had problems registering online and verifying their identity.

  • The tax break will not be available to anyone who’s divorced. When a couple gets divorced they would need to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the partner who transferred their unused tax allowance would be able to revoke the transfer during the tax year in which they divorce, if they wish.
  • The tax break could be returned if a couple separates. If a couple separates (formally), the partner transferred the unused allowance would be able to ask for their tax allowance back if they contact HMRC.

SAVVY TIP: You can still claim the tax break if you and your husband, wife or civil partner live apart but haven’t formally separated.

  • The tax break would be returned if a spouse or civil partner died. If, for example, a wife were to transfer her unused tax allowance to her husband and he died, she would immediately be given the allowance back.

New marriage allowance compared to the married couples’ allowance

Married couples used to get a married couples’ allowance, which was abolished in April 2000 for anyone who hadn’t reached 65 at the time.

SAVVY TIP: The old style married couples’ allowance can still be claimed by couples where either partner was born on or before April 5th 1935.

  • It was more generous than the marriage allowance.
  • Married couples who qualify for the married couples’ allowance won’t be able to receive the marriage allowance as well.

Related articles:

Marriage second time around – how to sort out your finances

What does marriage mean to your finances?

Married couples and civil partners can transfer their inheritance tax allowance – don’t miss out

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