What’s the marriage allowance, and should I claim it?

Authored on
09 Sep 2022



You may have heard of a little-known tax break called the Marriage Allowance. If you qualify, it essentially gives you up to £1,220 of free money from the Government. With 5 April approaching, now could be the perfect time to claim for this tax year and any previous tax years you were eligible.

What is the marriage allowance?

It’s a tax break offered to married couples or those in a civil partnership, and can give you up to £252 a year back from the Government.

Who qualifies for it?

The tax break is only for married couples or those in civil partnerships. To qualify, one half of the couple must be a basic-rate tax payer (i.e. earn £50,270 or less a year in the current tax year), and the other half of the couple must earn less than the personal allowance (currently £12,570).

Some people think of the marriage allowance as being for couples in which one person doesn’t earn at all. But it applies to anyone who earns less than that threshold. It’s also worth remembering the figures are based on the money you actually earn, before tax. So if you work part-time and earn less than £12,570 you’d be eligible, because it isn’t based on your full-time equivalent salary.

The marriage allowance also applies if you have a temporarily small income – for example, if you’re on maternity leave or you cut back your hours for a couple of years. So if your circumstances have changed, it’s worth thinking about whether you might now be eligible (for example, if one of you has recently retired, gone part-time, or taken a career break).

How does it work?

Let’s look at the technical details. The half of the couple that earns the least can transfer 10% of their annual tax-free allowance to their partner. For the current tax year, that means you can essentially gift your partner an extra £1,260 of tax-free earnings a year.

Because they would usually be charged 20% income tax on that portion of their salary, it means they don’t have to pay that tax. So the saving is 20% of £1,260, which is £252. You don’t get that money back in hard cash – instead, your partner will be charged £252 less income tax on their earnings each year, so each month their take-home salary will be £21 higher (assuming their salary remains the same).

If you earn close to the threshold of £12,570, you won’t get the full £252 tax saving each year. This is because you won’t have the full £1,260 of spare tax-free allowance to transfer to your partner – as you can’t transfer any allowance you’ve already used. For example, if you earn £12,000 in a year, you’ll only have £570 of your tax-free allowance left that you can transfer. So that means, you’ll get a £114 tax break each year.

You mentioned that I could get £1,220 back…

Yes! While you can claim back up to £252 for the current year, you can also backdate any claims for up to four years that you were eligible. That means you can claim back up to £1,220 in total (the amount you could claim back was different in previous years, which is why the total amount you can claim isn’t five times £252).

How do I claim it?

You can claim online directly via the Government’s marriage allowance website. You’ll need to have yours and your partner’s National Insurance numbers handy, plus some forms of ID (the above link has all the details). Keep in mind that the person who earns the least who should claim it.

Beware, some spoof sites have been set up that promise to claim for you but are scams, while others will claim it for you but take a cut of what you’re owed. These sites are often branded to look a lot like the official Government website, but will often take a massive chunk of what you claim. So make sure you only use a gov.uk website to process your claim.

Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and rules may change.

These articles are for information purposes only and are not a personal recommendation or advice.