What is the marriage tax allowance?

The marriage tax allowance is a tax perk that allows couples to shift a proportion of their unused personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner.

The tax break can be worth up to £252 for the current tax year, though to get it you must apply.

Sadly, it's believed over two MILLION eligible couples are missing out on the marriage tax allowance just because they haven't applied for it.

In this article, we're going to take a closer look at the marriage tax allowance including how it works, and how to check if you qualify for it.

What is the marriage tax allowance?

Most working UK adults get a ‘personal allowance’, which refers to the amount you can earn tax-free in a given tax year.

For the current 2023/24 tax year — which runs until 5 April 2024 — the personal allowance is £12,570. So, if you earn this amount or less, you don’t have to pay any income tax. It's worth knowing that some very high earners — those earning £125,140 or more — don’t get a personal allowance.

The marriage tax allowance was introduced in April 2015. It's a perk that allows married partners to share up to £1,260 of their personal allowance with their partner.

For the current tax year, the marriage tax allowance can equate to a tax saving of up to £252.

If you’ve been eligible for the tax break but haven’t been claiming it, then the good news is that you can also claim back money from previous tax years (going back up to four years). This means that, for some, the allowance could lead to a tax rebate of up to £1,256.

How does the marriage tax allowance work?

To be eligible for the marriage tax allowance you must be married or in a civil partnership. Also, one of you must be earning less than the personal allowance (£12,570 for 2023/24).

In addition, if you live in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, then the partner paying income tax must be a (20%) basic-rate taxpayer — which means their income should sit roughly between £12,571 and £50,270.

If living in Scotland, then the partner must pay starter, basic or intermediate income tax (this is an income between £12,571 and £43,662).

If you find you're eligible for the marriage tax allowance, then the size of the tax break will depend on the earnings of the non-taxpayer. This is because if the non-taxpayer's earnings are under, but close to the £12,570 personal allowance threshold, then they won’t be able to transfer the full £1,260 to their partner. This is because partners aren’t allowed to transfer any proportion of their personal allowance that they're already using.

For example, if a partner earns £11,600 per year, then he/she only will only be able to shift £970 of their unused personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner — as opposed to the full £1,260. This is why, to get the full benefit of the marriage tax allowance the non-taxpayer partner in the relationship will have to be earning £11,310 or less.

How do you apply for the marriage tax allowance?

If you’re eligible for the marriage tax allowance you’ll be pleased to know that applying for it is easy.

The process can done online at Gov.UK as long as you've you and your partner's National Insurance number at hand. You'll also need a Government Gateway ID. (If you don’t have one you can apply for one, though you’ll have to provide two forms of ID.)

If you don’t want to apply online, or you run your own business, then you can also claim the marriage tax allowance through Self Assessment as long as you already send tax returns. Alternatively, you can download and fill in a marriage allowance transfer form which you can send by post.

The marriage tax allowance: What you need to know

While applying for the marriage tax allowance is relatively straightforward there a few need-to-knows worth bearing in mind.

  • You MUST be married or in a civil partnership. It almost goes without saying but the marriage tax allowance is only for those who have officially tied the knot. Even if you're living together or you've been with your partner for a number of years, if you aren't married or in a civil partnership then you can't qualify for the tax break.
  • You can backdate a claim for up to four previous tax years. We mentioned it above, but it’s worth repeating again… if you found you've been eligible for the marriage tax allowance but you haven't been claiming it, then you can go back up to four previous tax years to claim it. You can apply for back payments on the Gov.UK website.
  • Born before 6 April 1935? You can apply for the married couple’s allowance. The Married Couples Allowance is generally more generous than the marriage tax allowance, so it’s probably a better option for those aged 88+ as you can’t receive both the MCA and the marriage tax allowance.
  • If you’re no longer eligible for the allowance you must cancel it. If your income changes, or your marriage or civil partnership comes to an end, then it’s your responsibly to inform the Government you’re no longer eligible to receive the marriage tax allowance.

To learn more about the marriage tax allowance, plus eligibility information, you can visit the Gov.UK website.