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HMRC makes child benefit digital for new parents

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A change to the child benefit claims process means it can now be done entirely online through the government's website, potentially cutting the time it takes to receive the first payment to as little as three days.

3rd Jan 2024
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Since 1977, families claiming child benefit had to fill out a paper form, post it and wait as long as 16 weeks for their first payment. Through the new online claims process, which HMRC claims will take around 10 minutes to complete, payments could be made in as little as three days.

Initially launched in May 2023, the online service was only available to a small number of parents with newborn children. HMRC has now extended the service, so the vast majority of parents are now able to claim child benefit online.

As part of its promotional literature for the new feature, parents looking to register are encouraged to go to the gov.uk site, search ‘Claim child benefit online’, and follow the steps to apply.

HMRC has also put together several tips for parents applying for child benefit online:

  • parents can claim child benefit from the day after a child’s birth has been registered; make sure to have the birth certificate to hand when claiming.
  • create a Government Gateway account when making a claim for child benefit, with a passport and other proofs of ID. This can also be done in advance of a child’s birth to save time later on.
  • when creating a new account, HMRC will send an activation code via email. Once received, this can then be used to apply for child benefit online. 

When ready to make the claim, applicants should have the following documents to hand: 

  • the child’s birth certificate
  • your bank details
  • your national insurance number 
  • your partner’s national insurance number (if you have a partner) 

Once parents have applied online, they can manage their child benefit by using the HMRC app, which offers features such as the ability to report changes in circumstances, update bank details, view the last five child benefit payments, and view proof of entitlement for child benefit.

Child benefit can be backdated by up to three months, and HMRC urged parents with children over three months old who have yet to claim to do so as soon as possible. Parents with children over six months old may be required to download and print their completed claim form and send it through the post.

Families with adopted children, or whose child’s birth was registered outside the UK, can claim child benefit online but will need to send additional information through the post to support their application. 

Child benefit: The basics

First introduced in 1977 as a replacement for Family Allowance, child benefit is typically paid every four weeks at a rate of £24 per week for the first child, and £15.90 per week for any additional children.

Parents or guardians can get child benefit if they are responsible for bringing up a child under 16, or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training. There is no limit on the number of children parents can claim for.

Claiming child benefit means that the parent will receive national insurance credits which count towards their State Pension. It also means their child will automatically receive a national insurance number when they turn 16 years old.

High-income complications

The tax office also flagged that claimants may need to keep an eye on their claims, or they could find themselves pulled into the orbit of the High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC). The controversial charge was introduced in 2013 and has been criticised ever since for the extra compliance burden it adds for taxpayers and HMRC, and the unfair outcomes for an increasing number of claimants.

The HICBC applies if a claimant or their partner has an individual income that’s over £50,000, regardless of who claims the child benefit. If this is the case, the higher-earning parent or guardian will need to complete a tax return and repay some or all of the child benefit received during the appropriate tax year.

By the time the higher-earning partner’s income reaches £60,000, the full amount of child benefit received in a tax year must be repaid. However, there are still potential benefits in claiming, for example, if the individual who claims it isn’t working and would otherwise miss out on national insurance credits. It is possible to claim the benefit but opt out of actually receiving the payments, potentially avoiding the need to file a tax return.

Replies (12)

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By carnmores
03rd Jan 2024 15:56

this is a good thing HMRC seem to be making progress on some fronts and replies are speeding up but still room for improvement

Thanks (1)
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By FactChecker
03rd Jan 2024 17:19

Am I the only person who (despite adequate brain-cells, lack of technophobia and a background in systems) has been unable to create a Government Gateway account?

[The details are too boring for here but ... encountered a fault in their software when trying to sign-up in its early days ... result = my email address is blocked by their sign-up validation software, and (even after escalation to Deputy Director level) apparently no facility exists for them to remove that block ... I refuse (on a point of principle) to take out a new email address just to satisfy HMRC (who caused the problem in the first place).]

Just as well, then, that the likelihood of my initiating a fresh claim for CB is infinitely remote!

Thanks (4)
Replying to FactChecker:
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By carnmores
03rd Jan 2024 19:32

I am having trouble with my new style agent services account. they tell me I have one but they can't find it
Make life easier for you and get a free outlook email and reapply
N

Thanks (2)
Replying to FactChecker:
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By Jane Wanless
03rd Jan 2024 21:50

I confess - I don't know what I've done wrong, but I've ended up with two gateway accounts...

Thanks (1)
Replying to janewanless:
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By johnjenkins
04th Jan 2024 10:43

Don't sell one on e-bay or you could end up with a tax bill.

Thanks (2)
Replying to johnjenkins:
Pile of Stones
By Beach Accountancy
04th Jan 2024 18:18

I think you have to sell 30 a year for HMRC to be interested...

Thanks (0)
Replying to Beach Accountancy:
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By johnjenkins
05th Jan 2024 10:52

That could constitute a "trade". A one off merely CGT.

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Replying to FactChecker:
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By rmillaree
04th Jan 2024 12:45

facts are that some people will need to be minorly inconvenienced when they deal with government departments. I would say anyone who is claiming "means tested cash benefits" from then state should really be going out of there way to not give petty reasons to make life overly complciated.

Note hopefully at some stage hmrc might fix their systems - albeit one has to understand if for example an email address is flagged as being possibly fraudulent or linked to a differemt gateway hmrc are perhaps not being unreasonable to request that a different email address be used. Facts are an individuals gateway is going to be the core for dealing with the goverment going forward - so we ned to face that fact.

sometimes points of principle only disadvantage the person making the point

note i totally applaud you effort in trying to get hmrc to have a system that works it needs people to try here - i suspect its poor proogramming skills rather than common sense as to why you could have what you want here.

Thanks (1)
Replying to rmillaree:
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By FactChecker
04th Jan 2024 13:37

"sometimes points of principle only disadvantage the person making the point" ... quite, in fact usually not just sometimes!

But FWIW my email address wasn't "flagged as being possibly fraudulent or linked to a different gateway" - indeed it remains valid a decade or so later and HMRC are happy to use it within countless databases of theirs.

The problem arose because their inadequately tested validation software (a problem not entirely alien to HMRC) hit a 'logic glitch' of its own making.
Specifically I had answered 'none' to whether I possessed a mobile phone contract (near the beginning of the lengthy set of questions) and therefore answered 'n/a' to when had I last paid my mobile phone bill (near the end of the questions).
It took exception to my latter response (basically calling me a liar) and so locked me out from re-applying with the same email address.

When I met with a Deputy Director (on another topic) I mentioned all this and they investigated - and the answer is why I mistrust their automated processes:
* their system managed to access my banking records and identify that I had once, many years ago, paid *A* mobile phone bill - so by it's childlike logic I was lying;
* however it transpired that it was my wife's mobile phone bill (because she'd lost her bank card at that time) - which took some time to identify, and was stressful for me, as she had died a few months previously.

We all make mistakes (certainly including HMRC), but they offered no apologies or more importantly any resolution.

The fact that a solution is in my hands (because it is so easy to create any number of different email addresses without checking) doesn't mean I'm keen to do so (and have yet another set of login details to remember/record somewhere) AND shows how ridiculous is HMRC's reliance on email addresses as a core 'hook' for their validation!

Thanks (2)
Replying to FactChecker:
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By johnjenkins
04th Jan 2024 13:50

I have said this soooooo many times. The more the tech in everyday lives the more the problems on the premise that it saves time and is easier for the customer.

Thanks (1)
Replying to FactChecker:
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By rmillaree
04th Jan 2024 14:11

AND shows how ridiculous is HMRC's reliance on email addresses as a core 'hook' for their validation!

i dont doubt this for a second - but we have to deal with stupid is stupid does unfortunately

I tried many years ago to get the 5 removed from the end of the personal allowance and was told it was not technically possible. The fact that coding notices go to nearest £10 meant that many sa peps ended up with ridiculous bills of 88p or theraboute - that would result in paper statements being send out (that would not have been sent out for nil liability) evidences how dumb hmrc are at trying to make things efficient.

Lo and behold when the pm had a chance to advertise to teh nation that in 2 years time the pa will be 10,000 pa (good old days when pa went up in real terms) he would have looked a bit silly if it was 10005 or 9995 and they found a way to get the job done they could have done in the first place when i pinted out the money they were wasting.

Hey ho this suggests the problem here is that Factchecked is not running the country as should be the case :) - you have my vote if you ever go for the job.

Thanks (1)
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By seonaid anderson
04th Jan 2024 12:18

Has anybody heard what is happening about backdating Child benefit registration for people who did not register because their partner was in the clawback?
Seemed to be a flurry of articles early last year..

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