Good news for contractors with children: tax-free childcare has (almost) arrived

Back in 2013 the Government announced a new tax break for working parents, providing help with paying for much needed childcare.

 

In this blog we take a look at what the scheme entails, how you can take advantage of the scheme, and when it becomes available.

 

What is the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme?

Effectively, the scheme allows parents to pay into an online account in the same way as they would pay into a regular bank account. The Government also pays into this account, which is then used to pay for part or all of your child’s care costs.

 

Who can apply for the scheme?

Anyone can apply, as long as:

  • your child is aged 12 and under (or if your child has a disability, 17 and under)
  • you and your partner are in employment, and expected to both earn a minimum of £115 per week (but no more than £100,000 per year)
  • This scheme is also available to self-employed parents, who will not have to earn the same minimum amount as those who are in permanent employment

 

How does it work?

  • For every 80p paid into the account, the Government will pay in 20p
  • There’s a limit of £2,000 per child, per year (£4,000 per child, per year for disabled children) for parents receiving support towards their childcare costs
  • Anyone is able to pay into the scheme, so if you have a generous grandparent, godparent or friend, they too can contribute!
  • The money collected can only be used to pay for childcare that’s provided by a carer who is registered to receive a Tax-Free Childcare payment. Check whether your current childcare provider is registered here
  • You cannot qualify for this scheme if you currently receive childcare vouchers from your employer or if you already receive free or subsidised childcare
  • You will lose the Government’s contribution if you draw the money out rather than using it for childcare

 

When does it become available?

For some parents it will be available from Spring 2017, but others will have to wait until much later in the year as the scheme is being rolled out gradually. Those parents with the youngest children will be first in line to try it out.

 

How can you register your interest?

Register at gov.uk to ensure you’re on the Government’s radar for this scheme. You will receive an email that will let you know when you’re able to start an account.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

The New Tax-Free Childcare Scheme

The New Tax-Free Childcare Scheme – how will it help contractors?

 

The recent Budget revealed more details about the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme, but what does this mean for contractors? Well the good news is, unless you want to, you’ll no longer have to mess around with childcare vouchers or setting up an Employer’s Scheme when you might be the only employee! And, perhaps most importantly, you will get more through the new Scheme.

 

The changes are a little way away yet and if you’re already an Intouch client, your Personal Accountant will be able to offer you advice and guidance nearer the time of the scheme being rolled out.

 

In this blog we address the top 12 questions contractors and freelancers will want answers to now.

 

1. When does it launch?

The scheme will start being rolled out from early 2017, firstly to those parents with youngest children.

You will be able to open an account online, which you can pay into for the cost of your childcare with your chosen registered provider. As soon as your youngest child becomes eligible you will be able to apply for any other children you may have.

 

2. How will the government support it?

For every 80p you pay in, the government will add 20p. They will top up the account with 20% of childcare costs up total of £10,000. That’s the equivalent of up to £2,000 per child, or £4,000 per child with a disability.

 

3. What’s the cut-off age?

Children up to the age of 12 and children with a disability up to the age of 17.

 

4. Who is it available to?

Parents who work and where individual earnings equal approximately £115 per week and not more than £100,000 per year.

 

5. What about your employer?

Unlike the current Employer-Supported Childcare scheme, you don’t need to rely on your employer to offer the new scheme to you. Any family that qualifies (see question 4) can apply. So if you run your own Limited Company you won’t have to go through the additional administration of setting up an employer-run scheme when you might be the only employee.

 

6. What about self-employed parents?

Freelancers are not being left out. Self-employed parents can get support through the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme.

A ‘start-up’ period will be introduced by the government, to ensure that those parents who are self-employed won’t have to reach the minimum weekly earnings threshold of £115. If parents are on paid or unpaid paternity/ maternity leave, paid sick leave, or adoption leave then they too will be eligible.

 

7. What’s happening to the Employer-Supported Childcare scheme?

Employer-Supported Childcare (childcare vouchers) will continue to run but won’t be available to new entrants from April 2018. If you’re planning on using it past this date, then you can continue to do so for as long as your employer offers it.

You don’t have to move across to Tax-Free Childcare, although the government predicts that it will be open to more than twice the number of parents as Employer-Supported Childcare.

 

8. Can other people pay into your childcare account?

Yes! If you have generous family members or friends then they can contribute.

 

9. What about the free childcare entitlement?

The new Tax-Free Childcare scheme will run alongside the 50% increase to free childcare (to 30 hours per week) for working families with three and four year olds from September 2017.

 

10. Will it be complicated to use?

The government intend to make the process as simple as possible. You will have to reconfirm your circumstances every three months.

 

11. What if you don’t use the money you put into your account?

If you decide to stop using the scheme, or if your circumstances change, you can withdraw the money from your account whenever you wish. You will, however, lose the money the government has contributed towards your payments.

 

12. Which scheme is best for you?

This all depends on your circumstances, but here’s a quick overview:

Tax-Free Childcare – who wins?

  •  Self-employed people or couples earning less than £100,000 each. They are eligible for this scheme but can’t get childcare vouchers
  • Parents who have more than one child and whose childcare costs are high. Under this scheme help increases with the number of children, unlike vouchers which are limited regardless of the number of children.

 

Childcare vouchers – who wins?

  • For those earning between £100,000 and £150,000 the vouchers are the better option.
  • Couples where one parent doesn’t work – although they are not eligible for Tax-Free Childcare, the employed parent is eligible for vouchers.
  • Basic rate taxpayers who pay less than £9,336 in childcare costs. Below this threshold the amount you save with vouchers exceeds the amount you can save with Tax-Free Childcare.
  • Higher rate taxpayers who pay less than £6,252 in childcare costs. Below this threshold the amount you save with vouchers exceeds the amount you can save with Tax-Free Childcare.
  • Additional-rate taxpayers – anyone earning £150,000 or more isn’t eligible for the scheme but additional-rate taxpayers can claim vouchers.

 

Find out more about childcare vouchers.

 

So what’s next?

More information will be made available ahead of the scheme’s launch and Intouch Accounting will be first to announce any developments, so keep a close eye on our blog section for the latest updates.

 

We know how important preparation is when you’re contracting whilst looking after a family, that’s why we’re here to inform and aid you in any way we can. Got questions about the new scheme? Simply leave us a comment and we will get back to you.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.