THOUSANDS of parents need to act now or face losing £1,000s in benefit payments.
Most parents in the UK can claim child benefit which can top up their incomes by £1,000s every year.
Child benefit is currently worth £24 a week for the eldest child or only child, adding up to £1,248 a year.
For each subsequent child, parents get £15.90 a week – or £826.80 a year.
But the payments automatically stop on August 31 on or after your child's 16th birthday if they leave education or training.
And if your child is aged 16-20 and is due to end education or training after August 31, their payments could stop at any of the other three key dates:
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But with August 31, less than two weeks away, thousands of families could see their child benefit payments stop, according to HMRC.
But you can continue getting the free cash if you tell the Child Benefit Office that your child is remaining in education or training.
Households are usually sent a letter in their child's last year at school asking you to confirm their plans.
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Education must be full-time (more than an average of 12 hours a week of supervised study or course-related work experience) and can include:
- A levels or similar, for example Pre-U, International Baccalaureate
- T levels
- Scottish Highers
- NVQs and other vocational qualifications up to level 3
- Home education – if it started before your child turned 16 or after 16 if they have special needs
- Traineeships in England
Approved training should be unpaid and can include:
- In Wales: Foundation Apprenticeships, Traineeships or the Jobs Growth Wales+ scheme
- In Scotland: the No One Left Behind programme
- In Northern Ireland: PEACE IV Children and Young People 2.1, Training for Success or Skills for Life and Work
Some families can also apply for a child benefit extension when their children's education or training comes to an end.
You could get child benefit for 20 weeks if your child leaves approved education or training and either:
- Registers with their local careers service, Connexions (or a similar organisation in Northern Ireland, the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein)
- Signs up to join the armed forces
Households can apply for the extension at Gov.UK or by calling HMRC on 0300 200 3100.
Who is eligible to claim child benefit?
You will normally qualify for child benefit if you live in the UK and you're responsible for a child under 16.
The support can also be claimed for a child under 20 if they stay in approved education or training.
But when two or more people share caring responsibilities for a child, it can only be claimed by one person.
To be considered responsible for a child, you will live with them or pay at least the same amount as child benefit rates to look after them – for example, for food, clothes or pocket money.
Foster parents can also claim Child Benefit as long as the local council is not paying anything towards their accommodation or maintenance.
Legal guardians or parents who are adopting a child can also apply for the support as soon as the child comes to live with them.
How do I apply for child benefit?
As soon as you have registered the birth of your child, or once they've come to live with you, you can open a claim.
It can take four months to process a new child benefit claim, sometimes longer if you're new to the UK, but it can be backdated for a maximum of three months.
So it's best to start the application process as soon as possible.
To apply, you'll need to fill in a Child Benefit claim form CH2 and send it to the Child Benefit Office.
The address to send it to is as follows:
Child Benefit Office (GB)
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
Note that you'll need a stamp in order to send off the application form, and these can be purchased from the Post Office.
Can I claim Child Benefit if I earn over £50,000?
You can, but the High Income Child Benefit Charge kicks in at £50,000, meaning you'll start to be taxed on the money you claim.
From your self-assessment tax return, HMRC calculates how much you owe them in over-payments which must either be paid in full or negotiated to be paid in instalments.
But once you start earning £60,000 of more, you'll lose all of your benefit through tax.
Even if you start having to pay tax, you can financially profit from claiming.
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You could put the Child Benefit into a high-interest savings account to earn money before having to pay the tax back.
Other reasons to claim include the automatic NI enrolment and state pension protection.
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