Tax credits and early years e-bulletin February 2020 | CPAG

Tax credits and early years e-bulletin February 2020

26 February 2020

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Our brand new 2020/2021Training and Publications brochure is now available. We are running the following course, also available in-house, which is particularly relevant to early years workers:

Find out more and book a place.


The following factsheets on financial help for families have been updated and are available to download from our website:

We have a limited printed supply of these factsheets. If you would like to receive printed copies please email [email protected].


The deadline for the first cohort of school-age payments is 29 February 2020. This is for children born from 1 March 2014 to 28 February 2015 (inclusive). Applications can be made:

  • online
  • by telephone on 0800 182 2222 (lines close 6pm Friday 28 Feb) or
  • by downloading and posting a form (must be received by 29 Feb)

The completed application must be received by 29 February 2020. The applicant must meet the qualifying conditions on the date the application is made. If waiting to hear about a qualifying benefit, e.g. universal credit, it is still important to claim by the deadline. It does not matter if the child has not actually started school in this school year.

For children born from 1 March 2015 to 29 February 2016, the application window for the school age payment will open on 1 June 2020.

An application for the early learning payment can be made at any time for a child aged 2-3½.

See our online resource for more information.


The new rates for tax credits and child benefit from 6 April 2020 are now available. There is an increase in child benefit, the child element and income thresholds for tax credits for the first time in five years. Maximum childcare costs remain the same.


Family element £545
Child element £2,830
Disabled child element £3,415
Severely disabled child element
(in addition to disabled child element)
Basic element £1,995
Couple/lone parent element £2,045
30 hour element £825
Disabled worker element £3,220
Severe disability element £1,390
Max childcare costs for one child £175 per week
(£122.50 payable)
Max childcare costs for two or more children £300 per week
(£210 payable)
Percentage of childcare costs covered 70%
Income threshold (WTC or WTC/CTC) £6,530
Income threshold (CTC only) £16,385
Withdrawal rate 41%
Income rise disregard £2,500
Income fall disregard £2,500
Eldest/only child £21.05
Other children £13.95



This section summarises recent decisions of the Upper Tribunal; these set a binding precedent on HMRC or DWP decision-makers and First–tier Tribunals in similar cases.

Childcare and working hours - credibility

This decision is one of some 40 interconnected tax credit appeals, in which the identities of the claimants’ employers and childcare providers were similar and/or identical. The claimant had claimed working tax credit on the basis of being employed, and then self-employed for at least 16 hours a week, and paying childcare costs to a registered provider. The First-tier Tribunal found that the claimant’s evidence was not credible in all three aspects:

  • there were major inconsistencies in the claimant’s oral evidence of employment, the claim to have been paid in cash was not plausible and there was no employer payroll number or P14 record for her;
  • it accepted the claimant had been engaged in setting up her own business but the claimed hours of self-employment were not plausible and her own earlier evidence pointed to 4 or 15 hours a week;
  • the claimant was not able to give a reason for choosing the childcare provider and her descriptions of the premises were so vague and non-committal that it could not accept that she was describing a real venue that she had actually used and paid for.

In the Upper Tribunal, Judge Wikeley dismissed the appeal, finding that the First-tier Tribunal had given adequate reasons. He distinguished this case from an earlier decision, in which he had emphasised the importance of realistic expectations of record-keeping by self-employed small traders, but stressed that this cannot sidestep basic questions of credibility. He also rejected an argument that the First-tier Tribunal has been hoodwinked into accepting a “moral panic” narrative “that single female claimants newly arrived in the UK have been involved in an organised and sustained attack on the tax credit regime”. He acknowledged that tribunals need to be aware of cultural issues when evaluating evidence, but an appropriate cultural awareness is not a guarantee that evidence will be found to be credible. He also commended the tribunal service for arranging an all-female tribunal environment.

Read the decision in full: NN v HMRC (TC): [2019] UKUT 386 (AAC)

Q&A: Best Start foods and Best Start grant

Q: I am advising two young women in similar situations:

  1. The first one is a single person on universal credit with no other income, and she is about three months pregnant. She applied for and was awarded Best Start foods but was told that she cannot get the Best Start grant pregnancy and baby payment.
  2. The second client is a single person on universal credit, earning £700 a month, and she is about six months pregnant. She applied to Best Start and was told that she cannot get Best Start foods but she was awarded the Best Start grant pregnancy and baby payment.

What’s going on?

A: There is a combined application for Best Start foods and the Best Start grant, but the qualifying conditions are different.

  1. The first client needs to re-apply to Best Start when she is at least 24 weeks pregnant. As long as she is still on universal credit in the month before she applies, she will be able to get the pregnancy and baby payment then. It is possible to get the Best Start foods payment card (worth £4.25 a week) from the start of pregnancy but the pregnancy and baby payment (£600 for the first child) is payable from 24 weeks – around the time that her midwife or health visitor will invite her to register for the Baby Box.
  2. The second client qualifies for the Best Start grant pregnancy and baby payment because there is no earnings limit – any amount of universal credit (or tax credits or other qualifying benefits) is enough to qualify, including people in work. She did not qualify for Best Start Foods because there is an earnings limit for people on universal credit of £610 a month. If her earnings go down (e.g. when she is on maternity leave) then she should re-apply for Best Start foods.

For more information see our resource on Scottish benefits.​

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