There have been some changes to childcare in 2017, with the introduction of the tax free childcare scheme in April and the 30 hours of tax free childcare scheme in September to help support working parents with the increased cost of childcare.
Tax Free Childcare
The scheme is available to working parents including directors (each parent earning at least £120 per week but less than £100,000 per annum) and provides up to £2,000 (£4,000 for disables children) per year, per child towards their childcare costs. Only one parent can register per child. The tax free childcare scheme is available to those who are self-employed unlike the existing childcare vouchers scheme. The scheme is for children under the age of 12 or up to the age of 17 for children with disabilities.
Parents need to register with the Childcare Choices website, once the account is opened parents need to pay in their money and the government will top the account up. For every £8 paid into the scheme by the parent, the government will contribute an extra £2. Parents may then use the money in the account to pay a registered approved childcare provider.
There are some potential difficulties with not being able to register for the scheme until 14 days before the parent who has had time off returns to work. There are also the added cash flow implications of having to pay the first childcare fees before receiving their higher wages payment following their return to work.
Parents can remain under any existing Employer Supported Childcare scheme; usually in the form of childcare vouchers and these schemes will remain open to new entrants until April 2018. The tax exemption for workplace nurseries will be unaffected.
30 Hours Free Childcare
The free childcare scheme is available to working parents of three or four year old children and can be claimed from the start of the term following the child’s third birthday. Parents will again need to register for the scheme using the Childcare Choices website.
Previously, parents were entitled to 15 hours of free childcare but under the new scheme the free childcare will be doubled.
Applications for the term starting 1 January 2018 need to be submitted by 31 December 2017.
To check if you are eligible for the new schemes and for more information on childcare, please look at the government website “Help with Chilcare Choices”
Since the introduction of the tax free childcare scheme in April, there have been technical issues with completing the online application. Parents may be eligible for a one-off payment of the government top-up and a refund of any reasonable costs directly caused by the service not working as it should, mistakes or unreasonable delays. Parents may be eligible for these payments if they have:
- Been unable to complete the application for tax free childcare.
- Been unable to access their childcare account.
- Not received a decisions about whether they are eligible without explanation for more than 20 days.
The online forms to complete can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/childcare-service-compensation