Are you missing out on free cash?

Saturday 16 May 2015, 06:30 AM

Sam Barratt
Financial Journalist , Freelance

  • Benefits

Every year billions of pounds' worth of benefits go unclaimed, with government figures showing that for some, such as council tax reduction, more than two million people are missing out**.

All sorts of reasons lie behind this, from complex eligibility criteria and claims processes, to people thinking they're simply not entitled to the money. But even if you're working you could be entitled to some financial support from the state. As part of the government's drive to encourage more people into employment, a number of benefits are available to make work financially viable for those on low incomes or with children.

Financial boost

Claiming what's rightfully yours can make a huge difference to your household income. The basic amount of working tax credit is worth up to £1,960 a year, with this topped up depending on your circumstances.

If you've got kids, there's further financial support. You could get child benefit, worth £20.70 a week for your first child and £13.70 for each additional one, and many families also qualify for child tax credit, worth up to £3,325 for one child.  

Stake your claim

Inspired to claim your entitlement?

This list of benefits will help you identify where you could be missing out and show you how to get that claim in

* Working tax credit

Working tax credit is available if you're 25 or over or you have a child or a disability. To qualify you must be working at least 30 hours a week (16 hours if you're 60-plus) or, if you have at least one child, at least 16 hours a week if you're a single parent or 24 hours between you if you're a couple, with one of you working at least 16 hours. 

Whether or not you qualify will depend on your circumstances but, as an example, the income limit for a couple without children is £18,000 a year (higher if you have children). The basic amount is worth up to £1,960 a year but you might get extra elements depending on your circumstances.

Call the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900 for more information and a claim form or use the Tax Credit Calculator (https://www.gov.uk/tax-credits-calculator) to get an estimate of what you'd receive.  

* Child tax credit

Child tax credit may be an option if you're looking after a child aged under 16 or under 20 if they're still in education or on a training scheme. As well as a family element of £545 a year, you'll receive up to £2,780 a year for each child. You may also get more if you're paying for childcare while you're working.   

Like working tax credit, your income will need to be below a set limit, which will depend on your circumstances. As an example, a one-child family earning less than £26,000 is likely to qualify.

Again the Tax Credit Helpline (0345 300 390) can help with claims and further information.

* Child benefit

Once a universal benefit paid to anyone looking after a child, eligibility is now determined by income. However, as long as you or your partner's individual income is less than £50,000 a year, you should still qualify for the full amount (£20.70 a week for the first child, £13.70 for each additional one).

To claim you need to fill in a form CH2 and send it to the Child Benefit Office with your child's birth certificate or adoption form. Claims can be backdated by up to three months.

* Council tax reduction

Depending on your circumstances, you could get a discount of up to 100% on your council tax bill. Each local authority runs its own scheme, setting the discount and eligibility criteria, which could include income, savings, number of children and whether you receive any benefits.   

Contact your local council for further information and to check whether you're eligible. 

* Housing benefit

If you're on a low income you may also qualify for help with your rent. Depending on your income and circumstances, which can include your savings and whether or not you have a spare room, housing benefit could pay for some or all of it.

You can get a claim form, HCTB1, from your local council.

Useful tools

Benefits calculators such as those provided by entitledto (http://www.entitledto.co.uk/) and Turn2us (http://www.turn2us.org.uk/) can help you work out which benefits you could claim. Just gather together as much information as you can on your income, savings, rent payment, childcare and council tax and spend half an hour filling out your details - it could turn out to be a very lucrative 30 minutes. 

** https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/income-related-benefits-estimates-of-take-up--2

*Rates are for 2015/16 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tax-and-tax-credit-rates-and-thresholds-for-2015-16/tax-and-tax-credit-rates-and-thresholds-for-2015-16)