Written by: Shani Fowler
Many people who work and are on a low income don’t realise that they still may be eligible to claim tax credits. Whether you are employed or self-employed you could still be eligible. The benefits depend on factors such as your circumstances, earnings and other monies coming into the household along with how many hours per week you work. Benefits and eligibility differ for those who work less than 16 hours per week to those who work in excess of 16 hours per week.
Firstly you need to total the hours you work, if you work in more than one job you need to combine the hours of all jobs. If you are unsure what would count you could contact an experienced adviser at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau who may be able to accurately establish your weekly working hours.
Working less than 16 hours per week
If you work less than 16 hour per week, it is possible you may be eligible to claim either Jobseekers Allowance or Income Support; although if you live with a partner (irrespective whether you are married, or have a civil partnership, gay or heterosexual etc.) and they work in excess of 24 hours per week, you will not be able to claim any of those benefits.
However in those circumstances it may be that your partner can claim Working Tax Credit. Also, if you work under 16 hours per week you may be entitled to Housing Benefit or a reduction of your Council Tax. If you have children you can also claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit whether you work or not. Free prescriptions, free school meals and help towards a new baby or funeral costs may also be available, depending on the benefits or tax credits you get and your income earned.
Working over 16 hours per week
Depending on circumstances, if you work more than 16 hours you may be entitled to claim Working Tax Credit. Eligibility depends on how much money you have coming into the household. You may also be entitled to other benefits such as Housing Benefit and a reduction in Council Tax. Again if you have children you can claim Child Benefit and may be entitled to Child Tax Credit.
Working Tax Credits are available if you or your partner are working enough hours but have low income; however you do not have to have children in order to qualify. If you are disabled you may also qualify for Working Tax Credits along with other benefits that may be available to you. Eligibility is dependent on you living in the UK. If you are from abroad and living in the UK it is then dependent on your immigration status.
It is always worth checking whether you are entitled to receive benefits as there are many unclaimed benefits every year. It can though feel like a bit of a mine field trying to establish whether you qualify. Websites such as www.gov.uk and www.citizensadvice.org.uk have helpful guides and breakdowns as to what you need to qualify along with user friendly calculators to assist for checking eligibility; and it is always worth looking into as every little helps when trying to balance that household budget. Tax credits are usually awarded for a year and run from April to 6th April to 5th April. Remember also that you need to notify the necessary authorities if your circumstances change and you no longer believe you qualify, as claiming benefits you are not entitled to can lead to Fraud Investigation Officers being involved and then looking into your circumstances.