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The Marriage Allowance: How It Works and How To Claim It

Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Apr 01, 2024
3 minutes read

If you’re married and one of you has earnings which total less than the maximum personal allowance whilst the other earns more, you could use the marriage allowance to make annual tax savings of up to £252 (depending on current rates of tax).

By arranging for HMRC to transfer up to £1,260 into your partner’s account, you’ll have the flexibility to use the personal allowance to your joint advantage – one of the few financial rewards you get from the UK Government for being married or in a civil partnership!

One of you must be earning less than £12,570 each month to qualify for the tax refund. Here’s all you need to know about the marriage allowance, what it is and how to claim.

Senior couple using laptop on desk at home

I’ll use the following questions to explore the topic in more detail:

  • What is the marriage allowance?
  • How does the marriage allowance work?
  • Who is eligible for the marriage allowance?
  • Can I backdate my claim for marriage tax allowance?
  • How do I claim the marriage tax allowance?

What Is The Marriage Allowance?

The marriage allowance enables you to share your tax-free personal allowance as a couple. The non-taxable refund, which cannot surpass £1,260, provides UK couples with the potential to make annual savings of up to around £252, depending on current rates of tax.

The tax refund for married couples or those in a civil partnership began in April 2015 at the request of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group.

Under the UK Government scheme, the first claims for marriage allowance were available for the tax year 2015-2016. Under the scheme, valid claims remain active for a maximum of four years.

The marriage tax allowance is only for couples who are in a marriage or civil partnership where one person earns more than another. One of the pair needs to have an annual income of less than £12,570 because earnings up to that figure are not taxed.

The lower earner must be happy the remaining £1,260 will not be required and be willing to give it to their partner. This is not a fixed arrangement and the transfer can be undone at any time by the lowest earner.

The other partner’s annual salary must be below £50,270 (£43,662 for Scotland) which will make them a basic rate taxpayer, paying tax at a rate of 20%.

For more information about marriage tax allowance in 2024 see here.

How Does Marriage Tax Allowance Work?

To claim marriage tax allowance, the person who earns less than £12,570 has to make a request for the remaining amount of their personal allowance left unused each month to be passed to their partner.

With the benefit of an extra proportion of personal allowance from their partner, the person whose income is more than £12,570 but less than £50,270 (£43,662 for Scotland), will now benefit from their partner’s tax allowance.

The additional monthly personal allowance allocation will see the highest earning partner enjoy their normal rate of tax plus the additional tax-free amount sent over by their partner, totalling up to £1,258.

The transfer is made automatically by HMRC and the change is recorded in the higher earner’s pay slip with an updated tax code. The request to pass the tax-free allowance remaining must be made by the person who is the low earner because the funds are moving from their allowance into their partner’s earnings.

The new setup is usually in place within a couple of days and will continue until the lowest earner makes a request for the transfer to end.

Can I Backdate My Claim For Marriage Tax Allowance?

Yes. You’ll be happy to learn you can backdate claims for marriage tax allowance for up to four years.

Claims run on a cycle of four tax years, after that time, your refund cannot be backdated any further. The four-year limit highlights why it’s beneficial to claim marriage allowance as soon as you can as well as any backdated refunds covering the previous four years.

Once four years have passed you cannot backdate a refund for any prior tax years. You must also have been married or in a civil partnership for the duration of any backdated claims.

Backdate your claim when you apply and you’ll receive your multi-year marriage allowance refund as a welcome lump sum within around 14 days if your claim is successful. Avoid backdating your claim by post because this can add an additional two weeks to processing.

For more benefits of marriage tax in the UK read here.

Who is Eligible For Marriage Allowance?

To claim marriage allowance, together you must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Both partners must be UK residents born on or after 6 April 1935 (couples born before this date may be entitled to apply for married couple’s allowance instead)
  • Both partners must be legally married or in a civil partnership
  • The lowest earning partner must receive less than £12,570 each year and be willing to relocate the remainder of their personal allowance to their partner’s account on the understanding that they must not receive further earnings in its place
  • The highest earning partner must earn a yearly income of no more than £50,270 (£43,662 for Scotland) but more than £12,570
Other answers to frequently answered questions:
  • If either person is retired and receiving a pension or living abroad you can still make a claim for marriage tax allowance
  • You cannot claim marriage allowance if you are living together but not married. You must be legally married or in a civil partnership to make a claim
  • You can still claim marriage tax allowance if you are separately through circumstances beyond your control
  • If you divorce, separate or one of you dies, you’ll continue to receive HMRC marriage allowance for the remainder of that tax year. When that tax year ends, your marriage allowance refund will also cease
  • If you are newly married or have recently entered a civil partnership, your HMRC marriage allowance will be administered on a pro-rata basis for the remainder of that tax year

How Do I Claim The Marriage Tax Allowance?

Find out if you qualify for marriage tax allowance today. Use our online tool to check if you’re eligible in less than 60 seconds. If you want further assistance, our experts are on hand to help you review your claim and confirm eligibility. See our guide for more information on marriage tax allowance.

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