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How to register for the new tax-free childcare scheme

Register for the scheme online

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If you read my recent blog post outlining the key features of the government’s new tax-free childcare scheme then you may be interested in getting on board!  The scheme is now live and registration is open to parents of children aged three and under, with plans to roll it out to all eligible age groups in the course of 2017-18.

Step 1:  Check if you fall within the eligibility criteria

The key eligibility criteria for the tax-free childcare scheme are:

  • You have a child aged under 12 (or under 17 if they are disabled)*
  • You are employed or self employed
  • You earn less than £100,00 per year but more than £120 per week
  • You are not receiving other support with childcare costs, including the employer-supported childcare voucher scheme.

*At the moment your child needs to be under four years of age on 31st August 2017, but this will change as the scheme rolls out to all age groups.   A detailed list of eligibility criteria is available for the scheme.

There is one interesting exception to the earnings criteria. If you are a new business in your ‘start-up period’, defined as the first year of operating, then you do not have to meet the lower earnings criteria of £120 per week.  This could be helpful to parents making a transition to self-employment, but who also need to pay for childcare in order to work.

So is the scheme for you? If yes, then the next step is to check if your early years provider is registered and then begin the process.   If you don’t fall within the eligibility criteria, consider whether other options such as the employer-supported childcare vouchers scheme, the childcare element of working tax credits or childcare support available to students might be open to you.  There is also a Childcare Calculator that might be helpful in working out the best option for your family.

Step 2:  Check if your early years provider has registered for the scheme

It is worth pausing now to check if your early years provider has registered for the tax-free childcare scheme, as otherwise you might spend time going through the registration process yourself but be unable to make them any payments.   All early years and childcare providers have been invited to register, but as with all new initiatives it can take time for everyone to be up and running.  The application process asks you to check if your provider is registered, but the link to do so is not easy to find.  Click here to enter your provider details and find out if they have registered for the scheme.   If they haven’t yet registered then it might be worth getting in touch and encouraging them to sign up.

Step 3:  Navigate to the start of the application process

As usual, when going through a web-based process, it is quite useful to have a number of tabs open on your browser and either paste links into a new tab or use the ‘open in new tab’ option, available on the right click on Windows PCs.  The main site we will be using is the new government Childcare Choices website at www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.

Home page for the Childcare Choices website

Home page for the Childcare Choices website

Either scroll down the home page or click the turquoise arrow that will take you to the various options for different age groups.  As this scheme applies to children under the age of twelve  (or under seventeen if they have a disability), you have to scroll a little way down the page to reach the buttons we need.

Tax-free childcare option on Childcare Choices website

Tax-free childcare option on Childcare Choices website

There they are!  The registration process now takes you off the shiny new Childcare Choices site and on to the rather plain, but very useful, Gov.uk site.   Here you need to choose menu option 4, Access the childcare service as a parent, as per the screenshot below:

Highlighted menu option for applying for tax free childcare on Gov.uk

Highlighted menu option for applying for tax free childcare on Gov.uk

Click that link and it will take you to the following page, which is the beginning of the application process:

Start here to apply for tax-free childcare on Gov.uk

Start here to apply for tax-free childcare on Gov.uk

Step 3: Begin initial eligibility screening

You will now be asked if you have been invited to register for the scheme, presumably because the government has been sending postal or email initiations to specific groups.   Click ‘No’ if that is not the case.  You now need to enter the date of birth of your youngest child.

Form to enter the date of birth of your youngest child on Gov.uk

Form to enter the date of birth of your youngest child on Gov.uk

If your child will be under 4 years old by 31st August, you are now taken to the Government Gateway login to begin the registration process.   Registering with the Government Gateway enables you to sign up for any of the UK government’s services that are available over the internet. If you already complete a tax return, manage your driving licence online or use the statutory Child Maintenance Service, then this service will be familiar to you.  Now is the time to gather some of the information that may be helpful in the process.

Sign in to the Government Gateway to register for tax-free childcare

Sign in to the Government Gateway to register for tax-free childcare

Step 5: Register or login to the Government Gateway to access the scheme

You can now either login or set up a new account on the Government Gateway to enter your personal details and confirm your eligibility for the scheme.  Remember that if you are not currently eligible for the tax-free childcare scheme you can register to receive email updates once it does become available to you. The government are rolling it out to different age groups in the course of 2017-18.

Thanks for reading and good luck with the registration process!  If you have anything to add about the process of registering for the scheme, leave a comment below.

Please note that this blog is only a guide and some parents may be better off remaining with other schemes to support parents with the cost of childcare. You should always seek advice tailored to your own circumstances before making decisions that may have financial implications.

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Three great features of the new government tax-free childcare scheme

English currency pounds sterling help with childcare costs

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April 2017 is the launch of the long-awaited government tax-free childcare scheme.   But what are some of the advantages to parents?

No. 1 – You can get the tax advantage whether you work for an employer or for yourself

You may be one of the lucky people currently able to access an employer-supported childcare voucher scheme, offering a way for parents to pay for some of their childcare costs out of their pre-tax income. However, not all employers are keen to administer a childcare voucher scheme, despite the potential to make savings on employer NI contributions. So, up until now, if you worked for such an employer, you missed out on the tax advantages of the vouchers. Self-employed parents were also out in the cold, unless they fancied forming a limited company in order to administer childcare vouchers to themselves…! However, the good news is that the new tax-free childcare scheme is based around an online account held by parents and your employer does not have to be involved at all.

No. 2 – You can pay in what you want and when you want, up to agreed limits

The existing employer-supported childcare voucher scheme asks you to nominate an amount of vouchers to ‘buy’ through salary sacrifice from your pre-tax and pre-NI income. The limit is £243.00 per month, so you can nominate any amount up to that monthly limit. However, if you want to vary that amount from one month to another it needs to be arranged via your employer and implemented in the next payroll. Under the new scheme, parents have direct control of what they pay in to the tax-free childcare account. You can pay in a lot one month, a little the next, as long as you stay under the overall total account limit of £10,000 per child. The ability to vary the payment amounts will be of particular benefit if your income varies a lot from month to month, or if you are on a tight budget. If you get an unexpected bill, money that you need right now won’t be locked away in the form of childcare vouchers. You can also withdraw money from the account if your situation changes.

No. 3 – Your money grows by 20%, so you are getting your basic-rate tax back again

For every 80p that is paid into the account, the government will top it up an extra 20p. The total amount that can be saved is capped at £2,000 per child, per year. So if you pay in £8,000 over the year to spend on childcare for your child, the government will give you £2,000. For disabled children the contribution will be £4,000. If you are a basic rate taxpayer you will effectively be getting a refund of the tax that you have paid on £10,000 of your earnings – now that’s what I call a rebate! Once the money is in your account you can use the topped-up amount to pay for early years provision or childcare offered by an Ofsted registered provider. That means Ofsted-registered nurseries, after-school clubs or playschemes, pre-schools, playgroups and nannies. It can also be used to pay for home care-workers working for a registered home care agency. Both you and your provider will need to register for the tax-free childcare scheme via the Childcare Choices website.

So these are three great features of the new government tax-free childcare scheme!

There are additional eligibility criteria for the new scheme, so do take a look at this page on YouGov for more details. Please note that this blog is only a guide and some parents may be better off remaining with other schemes to support parents with the cost of childcare. You should always seek advice tailored to your own circumstances before making decisions that may have financial implications.

If you have found this article useful please share it with your friends and followers on social media!