HMRC makes child benefit digital for new parentsby
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.
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.
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.
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.