Childcare Account chores

HMRC’s Childcare account can be used to claim free childcare (if eligible) or pay for Tax-Free Childcare. HMRC’s sign in page for the account states that in order ‘…to keep getting free childcare or Tax-Free Childcare, you must sign in every 3 months and confirm your details are up to date’.

There are various eligibility rules that must be met to claim free childcare via the Childcare Account. As a starting point you must be the parents of a child two, three or four years old and living in England. From September 2024, the scheme will be extended for children of working parents from the age of 9 months. You can apply from 12 May 2024. There are different schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The Childcare Account can also be used to claim under the Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) scheme. The TFC scheme can help parents of children aged up to 11 years old (17 for those with certain disabilities). The TFC scheme helps support working families with their childcare costs. There are many registered childcare providers including childminders, breakfast and after school clubs and approved play schemes signed up across the UK. Parents can pay into their account regularly and save up their TFC allowance to use during school holidays. 

The TFC scheme provides for a government top-up on parental contributions. For every £8 contributed by parents an additional £2 top up payment will be funded by Government up to a maximum total of £10,000 per child per year. This will give parents an annual childcare savings of up to £2,000 per child (and up to £4,000 for disabled children until the age of 17). 

The TFC scheme is open to all qualifying parents including the self-employed and those on a minimum wage. The scheme is also available to parents on paid sick leave as well as those on paid and unpaid statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave. In order to be eligible to use the scheme, parents will have to be in work at least 16 hours per week and earn at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage. If either parent earns more than £100,000, both parents are unable to use the scheme.

Source:HM Revenue & Customs | 21-04-2024

New employment protections

New legislation, including three Government backed cross party Acts, came into force from 6 April 2024.

Pregnant women and new parents will now receive special treatment in a redundancy situation, as a suite of new laws are introduced – delivering the Government’s plan to support families and back hardworking Brits.

New laws will protect workers by strengthening existing redundancy protections to cover pregnancy and a period of time after parents return to work.

The Government-backed package of Acts will also boost support to vulnerable workers offering greater flexibility and confidence to workers and businesses – to help galvanise productivity, help grow the economy and tackle inactivity.

Families will receive new employment protections, including redundancy protections for pregnant women and new parents and a new leave entitlement for unpaid carers. In addition, there will be new flexible paternity leave and pay for parents of babies due on or after 6 April 2024. 

Against a backdrop of skills and labour shortages, these measures will help businesses to attract and retain talented staff. The measures also support groups more likely to fall out of the workforce, such as parents and disabled people, enabling them to thrive in the workplace.

Source:Other | 08-04-2024

Assistance with debt management

Earlier this month, saw the 10th anniversary of the StepChange Debt Charity’s annual Debt Awareness Week. This is designed to shine a spotlight on the causes of problem debt.

The focus on this year's campaign is looking at the main barriers to getting debt advice. This includes understanding that many people can take too long to get the help they need because they:

  • Don’t understand what debt advice is and how it works;
  • Are dealing with anxiety, stress or a mental health condition;
  • Are worried about my credit file;
  • Never have enough time to get debt advice; or
  • Feel ashamed and do not want their loved ones to find out.

It is important to be aware that there are various options available to help people who have serious debts that they cannot pay. Insolvency solutions include bankruptcy, Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) and Debt Relief Orders (DROs).

A senior leader within the bankruptcy and Debt Relief Order teams at the Insolvency Service has the following usual advice:

‘The first step for people who are struggling to pay off their debts is to seek free, regulated debt advice. They will identify the solution that is best for them. 

Sometimes this will be a formal solution, like bankruptcy or a Debt Relief Order. But a regulated debt adviser will make sure that whatever people decide will be the right solution for them. 

Your first step is picking up the phone, getting on webchat or visiting a debt advice office, and having that conversation.’

Source:Other | 25-03-2024

Rent a Room Scheme – another income stream

The rent-a-room scheme is a set of special rules designed to help homeowners who rent-a-room in their home to create a valuable tax free income stream. If you are using this scheme, you should ensure that rents received from lodgers during the current tax year do no exceed £7,500. The tax exemption is automatic if you earn less than £7,500 and there are no specific tax reporting requirements. Homeowners can opt out of the scheme and record property income and expenses as usual if this is beneficial.

The relief applies to the letting of furnished accommodation and is used when a bedroom is rented out to a lodger by homeowners in their home. The relief simplifies the tax and administrative burden for those with rent-a-room income up to £7,500. The limit is reduced by half if the income from letting accommodation in the same property is shared by a joint owner of the property.

The rent-a-room limit includes any amounts received for meals, goods and services provided, such as cleaning or laundry. If gross receipts are more than the limit taxpayers can choose between paying tax on the actual profit (gross rents minus actual expenses and capital allowances) or the gross receipts (and any balancing charges) minus the allowance – with no deduction for expenses or capital allowances.

Source:HM Revenue & Customs | 25-03-2024