Get the Taxman to Pay for Christmas

January 2019
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If you spent more than you intended in the run up to Christmas, you may be bracing yourself for a large credit card bill. Help could be at hand from HMRC.

Married Couples and Civil Partners

You may be eligible for a tax refund of up to £900 if you are married or a civil partner, born after 6 April 1935, with one of you with income of less than the personal income tax allowance of £11,850 and the other with income of less than £46,350 (£43,430 in Scotland), the basic rate band at which income tax is charged at 20%.

The marriage allowance was introduced in 2015 and allows the lower earner to transfer 10% of their personal income tax allowance to their spouse, which increases the amount they can earn tax free. HMRC estimate that only half of the 4 million couples, eligible for this tax break, have applied.

In the current year this is worth £238 and from April 2019 will rise to £250. It can be backdated for up to 4 years and would be worth a total of £900 if all 4 years are now claimed. If a spouse has died since 2015 and would have been eligible, a claim can also be made on their behalf.

To claim, visit or call HMRC’s helpline on 0300 200 3300. The spouse with the lower income needs to claim and will need their National Insurance number, proof of identity and personal bank details if a repayment is to be made into a bank account. For future years, the higher earners tax code will be adjusted so that their take home pay will rise in line with increases in the tax free personal allowance.

Over Age 83?

Couples, where one is born before 5 April 1935, may be better off to claim Married Couples Allowance which is worth between £336 and £869 per year for those who are eligible.

Pension Savings Tax Relief and Gift Aid

If you have paid into a personal pension, stakeholder pension or SIPP via a payment from your bank account and are a higher rate taxpayer, with taxable income in excess of £46,350 (£43,430 in Scotland) you may be eligible for some additional tax relief. Pension providers usually grant basic rate relief of 20% at source and add this to your pension payment, so every £8 you pay in becomes £10 invested in your plan.

If you are a 40% (41% Scotland) or 45% taxpayer, personal pension contributions qualify for tax relief at the highest rate you pay. A claim can be backdated for 4 years. Additional rate relief is also available for charitable donations made under the gift aid scheme.

To claim you need to file a self assessment tax return or contact your tax office with details of the amounts paid, contract number and the tax year in which the payments were made.

Pension Freedom Withdrawals

Those over age 55 may make flexible withdrawals from private pension plans, if these exceed the tax free lump sum, usually up to 25% of the fund, the pension provider deducts tax at source on the extra. They are required by HMRC to do so by applying an emergency code. If no subsequent withdrawals have been made, nor a tax return filed in the meantime, a substantial refund could be due. Claims for overpaid tax can be backdated for up to 4 years.

According to data from HMRC, £372.5 million has been refunded since 2015 but it is estimated that many taxpayers who have taken withdrawals of more than the tax-free amount may still be due a refund.

Check Your Tax Code

Those paid under PAYE should not assume that the tax code used by the employer to deduct tax from pay is correct. Around 25% of tax codes are out of date at any one time. This is because it is based on the information HMRC hold about your income and the allowances you are eligible for. Employers have to use the code HMRC gives them. Changes in circumstances such as changing job, a pay rise or bonus, starting to draw a pension or cashing in savings and investments can all affect the tax you owe. If the wrong tax code is applied, you may have underpaid or overpaid tax. Check your payslip and question HMRC about any code that does not look right.

Kay Ingram
Director of Public Policy, LEBC

LEBC Group Ltd is not responsible for accuracy and may not share the author’s views. All information is based on our current understanding of taxation legislation and regulations. Any levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation, are subject to change. Taxation advice is not regulated by the FCA.

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