Childcare Vouchers Scheme Extended
29th March 2018
The government's new Tax-Free Childcare scheme has been pushed back for 6 months, after a petition that gathered around 100,000 signatures. Instead of coming into force in April, the new system now won't become compulsory until October. Until then, parents will still be able to register for the older Childcare Voucher scheme.
How much are childcare vouchers worth?
The Childcare Voucher system lets you take a maximum of £55 a week of your wages in the form of, appropriately enough, childcare vouchers. The benefit of this is that you won't pay any National Insurance or Income Tax on that portion of your earnings. The actual amount you can take this way is based on what you earn and when you signed up. When the new system comes in, if you're already getting Childcare Vouchers you can probably stick with them. If you sign up after or change to an employer that doesn't support vouchers, though, you'll have to switch.
How will the new Tax Free Childcare Scheme compare?
The Tax-Free Childcare scheme, on the other hand, gives you up to £2,000 a year for each of your kids to ease the costs of care. You need to be earning at least £120 a week to qualify, although you might still be eligible if your partner's working. You can also qualify if you're self-employed and have to file a tax return - although you can't be earning over £100,000 in taxable income either way. The system works by setting up an account that you pay into. For every £8 you pay in yourself, the government tops it up with £2. You can get up to £500 per child every 3 months this way, to spend on approved childcare bills.
Why is the new childcare voucher system being pushed back?
The reason for the angry noises kicking up around Tax-Free Childcare are partly technical and partly down to good old red tape. The new system's been glitchy at best for a lot of people, and the new rules leave some of them out of luck altogether. Tax-Free Childcare, for instance, is only for kids under 12 – as opposed to 15 for the old Childcare Vouchers.
There have been some concerns raised about the winners and losers of the new system. According to some, Tax-Free Childcare will leave over half the households claiming it worse off. On top of that, the problems people were having even accessing it had Treasury Select Committee chair Nicky Morgan calling it “unfit for purpose”. Almost 3,500 complaints were received about the website, with close to £1 million being paid out in compensation for missed payments in 2017. With luck, though, 6 months of extra breathing space will help to iron out the wrinkles and get Tax-Free Childcare on its feet.
For now, assuming you qualify, you're free to choose which of the systems works best for you. Unless things change again, though, in October that choice will be taken away.
Make sure you've checked whether you're due a tax rebate from HMRC this year. 1 in 3 British workers are paying too much each year so it's worth checking if you're missing anything from your pay packet that you could be claiming back. When you've got young children to care for, every penny counts.