Marriage tax allowance: how does it work and how to apply

Updated: Jan 20

If you're married or in a civil partnership, you may be entitled to a £1,188 tax break called the Marriage Tax Allowance – something that 2.4 million qualifying couples miss out on. 

Marriage Allowance may offer some support if your financial circumstances have changed so it may be worth you making a claim for the first time.

The Marriage Allowance allows an individual to transfer 10% of their personal allowance - £12,500 in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 so the amount transferred is £1,250 – to their spouse or civil partner.

20% of this allowance is given as a reduction to the recipient’s tax bill giving a saving of £250 for the couple.

The full benefit is available only if the person giving up the allowance is not using it and the person receiving the tax reduction can use it. The recipient must not be liable to tax at the higher rate.

The transferor of the allowance must make the claim and this can be done online or by calling HMRC and be made within 4 years of the end of the tax year.

How does it work?

The Marriage Tax Allowance allows you to transfer £1,250 of your personal allowance (the amount you can earn tax-free each tax year) to your spouse or civil partner if they earn more than you.

If your claim is successful, it will lower the higher earner's tax bill for the tax year, but you can also backdate your claim if eligible.

Who can get the marriage tax allowance?

Only people with specific circumstances will be able to apply:

  • You're married, or in a civil partnership (just living together doesn't count)

  • One of you needs to be a non-taxpayer, which usually means earning less than the £12,500 personal allowance between 6 April 2020 and 5 April 2021

  • The other partner needs to be a basic 20% rate taxpayer (higher or additional-rate taxpayers aren't eligible for this allowance). This means you'd normally need to earn less than £50,000 or if you live in Scotland, £43,430.

  • You both must have been born on or after 6 April 1935 (if not, there's another tax perk).

So, in a nutshell, one of you must be a non-taxpayer and one must be a basic-rate taxpayer.

Full details about the marriage allowance can be found here, or get in touch if you're not sure whether you're eligible and would like to know more.