Marriage and Married Couple's Allowance

You don’t usually pay Income Tax on all of your taxable income. This is because most people qualify for one or more allowances. An allowance is an amount of otherwise taxable income that you can have tax-free each tax year. This guide provides a simple explanation of how the Marriage and Married Couple’s Allowance works. These allowances are usually increased each year and normally apply from the start of the tax year (6 April).

Marriage Allowance

Married couples and those in civil partnerships can transfer up to £1,260 of personal allowance (just over 10% of the £12,570 personal allowance for 2021-22) to their partner for 2021-22 and is sometimes known as the Marriage Tax Allowance.

You might be eligible for this if:

  • you’re married, or in a civil partnership and are not in receipt of Married Couple’s Allowance
  • you do not pay Income Tax or you earn less than your Personal Allowance so are not liable to tax. This will usually mean an income of less than £12,570 for 2021-22
  • your partner pays tax on their income at the basic rate so is not liable to tax at the higher or additional rates. This will usually mean your partner has an income between £12,571 and £50,270 before they receive the Marriage Allowance. If you’re in Scotland, your partner must pay the starter, basic or intermediate rate, which usually means their income is between £12,571 and £43,662.

If you’re eligible, married couples and civil partners, but not unmarried couples, can transfer around 10% of their Personal Allowance (£1,260 in 2021-22) to their partner. This means the partner who earns more will get £1,260 added to their Personal Allowance (the amount you can earn before having to pay tax on your income).

20% of this allowance is given as a reduction in your tax bill (unlike the Personal Allowance which is deducted from your taxable income before tax is worked out).

Here’s an example.

If you earn £30,000 a year, which means you’re a basic rate taxpayer, and your partner earns £8,000 a year and so is a non-rate taxpayer, your household could be £252 better off:

Partner 1

  Without Marriage Allowance Including Marriage Allowance
Income £30,000 £30,000
Personal Allowance £12,570 £13,830
Income Tax £3,486 £3,234
Tax saving £0 £252

Partner 2

  Without Marriage Allowance Including Marriage Allowance
Income £8,000 £8,000
Personal Allowance £12,570 £11,310
Income Tax £0 £0
Tax saving £0 £0

In this example, once the non-taxpayer (Partner 2) earns over £11,310 (the difference between the standard personal allowance of £12,570 and the amount that’s been transferred, £1,260), this becomes less beneficial. This is because the non-taxpayer would pay tax on income over £11,310 rather than £12,570.

The recipient partner’s tax code will usually change to ‘M’, to show they are receiving marriage allowance from their spouse. If the partner who transferred their personal allowance is in employment, their tax code will change to ‘N’, showing they have elected to use the marriage allowance.

How to apply for Marriage Allowance

You can apply online at HMRC. All you need are your National Insurance numbers and identification.

You can also apply by phone on 0300 200 3300*.

*Lines are open Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm, Saturday: 8am to 4pm, Sunday: 9am to 5pm. There may be call charges. See GOV.uk for details.

Claiming Marriage Allowance for previous years

You need to meet the criteria for each year you apply for. Keep in mind that the threshold for non-taxpayers and basic rate taxpayers is different according to the tax year you are claiming for. You can backdate your claim for up to four years.

Claiming Marriage Allowance if your partner has died

If your partner died after 2017, and you meet the other criteria for Marriage Allowance, you can still apply for the benefit.

You’ll be applying for a backdate of the benefit, so you’ll get the benefit as if you had applied for it from April 2017.

Apply for Marriage Allowance if you partner died by calling 0300 200 3300*

Married Couple’s Allowance

Instead of the Marriage Allowance, couples where one or both partners are born before 6 April 1935 may be able to claim a more generous allowance, called Married Couple’s Allowance. This means that one member of the couple must be at least 87 years old on 5 April 2022 to qualify for an allowance in the 2021-22 tax year.

For marriages before 5 December 2005, the husband’s income is used to work out Married Couple’s Allowance although it can be transferred to the wife.

For marriage and civil partnerships after this date, it’s the income of the highest earner.

Tax relief for the Married Couple’s Allowance is given at the rate of 10%. This means that the higher earning partner gets 10% of the tax they pay.

The benefit has upper and lower limits for both the amount of tax that can be claimed and how much that can be earned.

For the 2021-22 tax year, this could cut your tax bill between £353 and £912.50 a year.

The easiest way to check how much you’ll get is to use the calculator on the GOV.uk website.

You can claim Married Couple’s Allowance in your Self Assessment tax return or if you don’t fill one out, you can get in touch with HMRC with details of your marriage or civil partnership ceremony and the details of your spouse or civil partner.

Find out more on GOV.uk.

*Lines are open Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm, Saturday: 8am to 4pm, Sunday: 9am to 5pm. There may be call charges. See GOV.uk for detailsopens in new window.

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