UK Married Tax Allowances: A Complete Overview

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The Marriage and Married Couple’s Allowance helps married couples and civil partners in the UK save money on their income taxes. This allowance is especially useful if one partner earns less than the Personal Allowance. Some eligible couples choose not to file the Married Tax Allowance. How can you decide if it is right for your household? Here’s what you’ll want to know.

What Is the UK Married Tax Allowance?

In the UK, everyone pays taxes based on their income, but you don’t have to pay taxes on every pound you make. Each person has a Personal Allowance. This is an amount of money that you can deduct from the total amount you earned. The personal allowance is £12,570. So, if you make £50,000 in a year, you will only need to pay taxes on £37,430 (£50,000 – £12,570.) 

Married couples also have a Married Tax Allowance or Marriage Allowance. Technically, the Married Tax Allowance, officially called the Married Couple’s Allowance, applies to couples who were born before April 6, 1935, and the Marriage Tax Allowance, formally called the Marriage Allowance, is the modern version of it. It is still common for people to use both terms to refer to the Marriage Allowance, but they are different. 

Instead of each partner claiming the Personal Allowance, couples who are married or live together in a civil partnership can transfer their Personal Allowance between one another so that one spouse gets the highest possible allowance. The lower earning spouse is only eligible to transfer a portion of their Personal Allowance to the higher earning spouse. There are certain requirements to claim the Marriage Allowance.

The UK Married Tax Allowance is not available to all married couples. You have to meet eligibility standards based on your marital status and income. The Marriage Allowance only applies to couples who are legally married or have a registered civil partnership. 

The lower earning spouse has to have an annual income of less than the Personal Allowance or no income at all. The higher earning spouse has to have an annual income of no more than £50,270

How Does the UK Married Tax Allowance Work?

Separately, both partners would be eligible for the Personal Allowance of £12,570. The Marriage Allowance allows the lower earning partner to give £1,260 of their Personal Allowance to their spouse or civil partner. Most of that money will serve the same purpose as the Personal Allowance, to decrease the amount of income you need to pay taxes on, but 20% of the transferred allowance applies at the end to reduce the amount of taxes you owe. 

For example, if the higher earning partner makes £40,000, the Marriage Allowance will reduce their taxable income by £13,830 (the sum of their own Personal Allowance and the Marriage Allowance from their partner). Suppose the high earner would otherwise owe £1,000 in taxes. That bill would be reduced by £252 (20% of the Marriage Allowance) so that this partner only has to pay £748.

The objective of the Married Tax Allowance is to give the highest reduction of taxable income to the largest source of household income. While the lower earning partner will not be able to claim their full Personal Allowance, the higher earning partner will be able to claim a Personal Allowance of £13,830. By transferring some of the lowerr earning spouse’s Personal Allowance, that spouse may be required to pay more in taxes than they would by taking their full Personal Allowance. For many couples, this still works out for the household to pay the least taxes, leaving the couple with as much money as possible.

How to File for the UK Married Tax Allowance

To claim the Marriage Allowance on your taxes, you’ll need to complete the online application. First, you answer a few basic questions to verify that you are eligible for the Marriage Allowance. Next, you sign in through the Government Gateway system. There, you’ll be able to enter personal information about yourself and your partner, including your NIN and paycheck and tax information from recent years. 

Once your application for the Marriage Allowance is approved, you and your partner will both receive new tax codes that show that you are either the partner who gets the other’s Personal Allowance or the one who chooses to transfer their allowance to the other. The partner who owes the most should receive the Personal Allowance of the partner who earns the least, and that partner should include the extra Personal Allowance on their Self-Assessment tax return.  

Since it is assumed that your marriage will last for the long term, your decision to transfer your personal allowance to your spouse or civil partner is a lasting one that only ends upon your request. It will also end if your or your spouse’s income pushes you out of eligibility for the allowance or if the relationship ends. 

Should You File the Married Tax Allowance?

If you are a marriage mate or civil partner who makes less than the Personal Allowance and your spouse is taxed at the basic rate, you need to decide if you’ll file the Marriage Allowance. Qualifying for the Marriage Allowance does not mean that you are required to file. You are also not required to continue filing for the allowance simply because you have filed in previous years. 

Personal finances are unique to the individual. While the Marriage Allowance may be great for one couple, it may not work out to have much of an effect for another. It is important to sit down and figure out whether you’ll actually save with the Marriage Allowance before you file for it. HMRC is a great resource if you have questions about your taxes. There is also a helpful Marriage Allowance calculator on that helps you make the best decision for your circumstance. 

If the Marriage Allowance is a good financial choice for your household, you only need to file for it one time. After that, a portion of your Personal Allowance automatically applies to your partner until you stop qualifying or ask HMRC to stop filing the allowance.