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Marriage tax allowance: what is it and how does it work?

Updated 06 May 2022

4min read

Kate Morgan
Staff Writer

Marriage allowance offers a couple that are married or in a civil partnership the opportunity to claim tax relief if one spouse earns less than the standard personal allowance.

Here’s everything you need to know about marriage allowance.

Marriage tax allowance: what is it and how does it work?

What is marriage tax allowance? 

Just as the name suggests, marriage allowance is a tax perk for couples who are married or in a civil partnership, where the lower earner can transfer £1,260 of their personal allowance to their partner.  

The higher-earning spouse (a basic-rate taxpayer) will receive a tax credit to the amount of personal allowance transferred to them – and this will then be deducted from the amount of tax they would usually pay.  

To be eligible: 

  • Before tax, the low earning partner’s income must be less than the standard personal allowance, which in 2022-23 is £12,570 

  • The higher-earning partner’s salary must fall between the threshold for the basic-rate of income tax - between £12,571 and £50,270. 

However, Scottish income tax has different bands and rates. 

If you live in Scotland, you can claim marriage allowance if the higher-earning partner's salary falls between the Scottish starter, basic rate or intermediate rate of tax.

Basically, the higher-earning partner’s salary needs to be less than £43,662. 

How does marriage allowance work? 

To be able to benefit from marriage allowance, the lower earner needs to apply to HMRC to request for their unused personal allowance to be transferred to their spouse. 

In the tax year 2022-23, those earning less than the standard personal allowance (£12,570) can transfer a maximum of £1,260 to their partner’s allowance.

However, it’s worth noting that if you do decide to transfer any of your unused personal allowance, it must all be transferred to your spouse. 

Who qualifies for marriage allowance? 

You will qualify for marriage allowance if all the following apply:  

  • You’re married or in a civil partnership 

  • You were both born on or after 6 April 1935 

  • One of you is a basic 20 percent rate taxpayer 

  • The other is a non-taxpayer 

How to apply for marriage tax allowance 

There are a few things you will need before claiming the marriage allowance tax relief. 

First and foremost, you will need your National Insurance (NI) number and your partner’s NI number too. 

You will need to prove your identity, which can be done by using any two of the following: 

  • Your P60 

  • One of your three most recent payslips 

  • Your UK passport details 

  • Information held on your credit file (such as loans, credit cards or mortgages) 

The quickest way to apply for marriage allowance is online. You’ll get an email confirming your application within 24 hours. 

But remember, if you want to apply, the person who earns the least should make the claim. 

How much is marriage tax allowance? 

The marriage tax allowance allows you to transfer £1,260 of your personal allowance to your marital or civil partner. This could reduce your spouse’s tax by up to £252 for that year.  

Is marriage allowance taxable? 

Marriage allowance is a tax relief. It offers couples a way of paying less tax if one partner is not using any (or all) of their personal allowance.  

How does the marriage allowance get paid? 

You wouldn’t receive your marriage allowance into your bank account, as this is a tax relief for a partner who pays the basic tax rate. 

This means the higher-earning partner will be taxed on a smaller proportion of their salary, so they will receive the extra money when they are paid either each week or month, depending on their payment date.  

The only instance you would receive a cheque in the post for your tax relief is if you’ve applied for backdated marriage allowance from previous years.  

Can self-employed people claim marriage allowance? 

As long as one partner earns less than £12,570 and the other earns between £12,571 and £50,270 per year, self-employed people can also claim marriage allowance with ease. 

If the recipient partner files a self-assessment, the marriage allowance tax relief will reduce their self-assessment bill.  

Can you claim marriage allowance while on maternity leave? 

If your income falls below £12,570 during your maternity leave, you can apply to transfer ten per cent of your personal allowance to your spouse. 

Can you backdate marriage allowance?  

Your marriage allowance claim can be backdated for up to four years. 

Any claimants in this current tax year are therefore able to backdate their claim to include any tax year since 5 April 2018, if they were eligible for the marriage allowance during this time.  

If your partner has died since 5 April 2018, it is possible to backdate your marriage allowance claim to include any eligible tax year between this period. Phone the Income Tax helpline for more information. 

How do I cancel my marriage allowance? 

If you need to cancel a marriage allowance transfer, you should contact HMRC as soon as possible – this can be done online or by calling 0300 200 3300. 

However, if a marriage ends through divorce or death, the marriage allowance will automatically be cancelled. 

Changes made to tax codes  

Usually, utilising the marriage allowance tax relief will see the recipient partner’s tax code change to ‘M’, demonstrating they are receiving marriage allowance from their spouse.  

Similarly, if the partner transferring their personal allowance is in employment, their tax code will change to ‘N’, showing they have chosen to use their marriage allowance.  

How long does marriage allowance take to process/receive? 

It can take up to two months for any marriage allowance claims to go through, as HMRC needs to process each claimant's tax code in order for the refund to be issued. 

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About the author
Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.