According to Which?, more than £15 billion in benefits goes unclaimed in the UK each year. More than 7 million households could be missing out on benefits they are entitled to.
This is because a lot of state benefits need to be claimed rather than paid out automatically. So, it’s worth you taking time to check your, and your loved ones’, eligibility.
With the current cost of living crisis posing financial challenges to many individuals and families, now could be the ideal time to check if you’re able to claim any benefits or discounts. The government website outlines some of the benefits you may be eligible for.
Even if you aren’t eligible, you may find that other family members, such as your children or elderly relatives, are missing out on valuable financial support.
Universal Credit has simplified the benefits system
Universal Credit (UC) was first introduced in 2013 with the aim of simplifying the benefits system, bringing together a plethora of different benefits under a single umbrella payment.
There were well-publicised teething troubles, but the new system does make the benefit process much more straightforward.
The amount you can claim depends on your circumstances, and it's still possible to claim UC even if you're working.
If you, or any of your relatives, have a low household income, you may be able to claim it.
You should also be aware that, even if you or family members are not currently eligible for UC, you should review your eligibility in the event of any major changes to your financial circumstances.
Start by finding out the benefits you might be entitled to claim
Even with recent steps toward simplification, the benefits system can be confusing.
But by using the Entitledto calculator, you and other family members will get a good initial idea of the benefits you may be entitled to receive from national and local government.
The calculator is detailed, but very intuitive and straightforward to use.
Understandably, given the sometimes complex benefits criteria, you’ll need to provide a lot of information as you work through it. For example, you’ll need to give details of your income, pensions, and other savings, as well as other information such as:
Your employment status
Your State Pension is a valuable benefit
The current maximum annual amount you can receive from the new State Pension is £9,627.80, rising to £10,608 in April 2023.
It’s not a massive amount, and probably isn’t enough to live comfortably on. But it’s guaranteed for life and the “triple lock” safeguard means that it should rise in line with inflation each year. It can provide a useful income that you could then supplement with your own pension arrangements.
Even if your retirement is some way off, it’s worth visiting the government website to see when you’ll start to receive your State Pension, so you can factor it into your retirement plan.
It’s also worth checking your State Pension forecast to find out how much you may be in line to receive.
The total State Pension you’ll be entitled to is based on your National Insurance contributions (NICs). So, it’s a good idea to look to see if there are any gaps in your NICs history. If these are within the last six years, you may well be able to pay voluntary contributions to boost your State Pension amount.
You should also be aware that up until 5 April 2023 you may be able to top up your NICs all the way back to 2006. This is subject to your eligibility, so if you think you’re in a position where you may be able to do this, we would strongly recommend you get expert financial advice.
Finally, you should be aware that you’ll need to claim your State Pension on the government website up to three months before it’s due to be paid to you.
Read more: How much do you need to live on in retirement?
You may be eligible for a discount on your Council Tax
Council Tax bills are calculated on the assumption that two adults live in a property. This means that anyone living alone can claim a single-person discount and receive 25% off their Council Tax bill.
This discount is not widely publicised and often goes unclaimed.
Given the current Council Tax band D charge in England is £1,966, that's a potential annual saving of close to £500 you may be missing out on.
The discount is not automatically applied to your bill, so if you think you're eligible you'll need to apply through your local council.
Keep an eye out for potential benefits you may be eligible to claim
Because of the complexity of the benefit system, it can be difficult to keep track of any changes that may affect you, or members of your family.
You only need to consider the number of different government Budgets and financial statements we’ve had in the past year to realise how easy it is to miss out on something you may be entitled to.
Each time there’s an announcement there will be changes. Sometimes it could be a new benefit you may be entitled to. More often, it’ll be benefits being withdrawn and you’ll need to put in a claim within a certain deadline.
So, it’s well worth keeping an eye on consumer financial websites and newspaper “money” pages for updates. They will often give examples of where you could save money or claim a benefit you might not have thought you were entitled to.
Watch out for errors and anomalies
Payment errors and anomalies are often being discovered. For example, in July 2022, Unbiased reported that the Department for Work and Pensions had identified that thousands of women have not received the full State Pension they were entitled to.
Then, in November last year, the Daily Express revealed that many people are not claiming the Attendance Allowance they are eligible for.
So by staying aware of potential issues, you can ensure you’re receiving what you’re owed once you’ve claimed a benefit, and you can also be certain that you’re claiming everything you’re owed.
Complete your tax return
The government website lists the benefits that are taxable. Importantly, this includes your State Pension.
This makes it all the more important to check that your tax code is correct and that you’re paying the right amount of tax.
You can check your tax code online and advise HMRC of any changes to your financial circumstances.
If required, you should also make a point of completing your self-assessment tax return promptly each year. By doing this as soon as possible after the end of the tax year, you will ensure that you’re paying the correct amount of tax, and you’ll also receive any tax refunds you’re due without delay.
Get in touch
If you need help or advice regarding any of the financial issues you’ve read about here, please get in touch.
Email: email@example.com or call us on 0800 055 6585.
The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of LEBC Group Ltd and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation to any investment or retirement strategy.
You should seek independent financial advice before embarking on any course of action. All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.
A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.