How to work out usual working hours for your tax credits claim

You need to work a minimum number of hours each week to get Working Tax Credit. The way you calculate your working hours depends on what sort of work you do.

On this page:

How many hours do you have to work each week?

The hours you need to work to get Working Tax Credit depend on your circumstances, including whether or not you have children.

You should expect your paid work to continue for at least four weeks.

If you don't have children

To get Working Tax Credit, you must normally be aged 25 or over and work at least 30 hours a week. But you only need to work 16 hours or more a week if you:

  • have a disability and are aged at least 16
  • are aged 60 or over

If you have children

To get Working Tax Credit you need to be aged at least 16, and working the following hours:

  • if you're single, you need to work at least 16 hours a week
  • if you're in a couple, your joint working hours need to be at least 24 a week, with one of you working at least 16 hours a week

So if you're in a couple and only one of you is working, that person must be working at least 24 hours a week.

If your joint working hours are less than 24 a week, you can still get Working Tax Credit if one of the following applies:

  • one of you is aged 60 or over and working at least 16 hours a week
  • one of you is disabled and working at least 16 hours a week
  • one of you works at least 16 hours a week and the other person is entitled to Carer's Allowance - even if they don't get any payments because they receive other benefits instead
  • one of you works at least 16 hours a week, and the other is 'incapacitated', an in-patient in hospital, or in prison (serving a custodial sentence, or remanded in custody awaiting trial or sentence)

'Incapacitated': what this means for Working Tax Credit

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How to work out your usual weekly working hours

You'll need to put the number of hours you usually work in a week on you tax credits claim form. You only count hours for which you are paid - don't include unpaid lunch hours.

If you're an employee

Give the total number of hours you usually work and are paid for in a week for all jobs that you do. If you normally work overtime, include this.

If your hours vary from week to week, put down what you and your employer(s) think of as your normal number of paid hours.

If you're self-employed

Put down the number of hours you normally spend working in your business, either on work billed to the client or related activity, for example:

  • trips to wholesalers and retailers
  • visits to potential clients
  • time spent on advertising
  • cleaning the business premises
  • cleaning a vehicle used as part of the business, for example a taxi
  • book-keeping
  • research work

If you work from home, include time spent travelling to see customers.

If you have only just become self-employed, use the number of hours you normally expect to work in a week.

If you're a seasonal worker

If you do seasonal work, or your hours change over the year, show the hours you're working at the time you make your claim.

If you do regular term-time work

If you work a regular number of hours a week, but only during the school term, put down the hours you work during term-time.

If you do agency work

Your work pattern might change from week to week, depending on how much work the agency has for you. You and your employer must decide how many hours you usually work. Just being registered with an agency and being available for work isn't enough to qualify.

If you do on-call work

If you do on-call work, your working hours are those which you are called-out. For example, you are called out four nights in a week for four hours at a time. Your total hours for that week will be 16 (four nights x four hours = 16 hours in total).

If you're on standby

If you're on standby and have no fixed pattern of work, tell the Tax Credit Office what you expect your normal hours to be. Don't count time on standby, when you are not paid. For example, you expect to be called out three nights per week for seven hours at a time. Your normal anticipated hours would be 21 per week (three nights x seven hours per night = 21 hours per week in total).

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Changes in your working hours

Your hours drop - or you stop work

You must tell the Tax Credit Office within one month if your hours of paid work fall below the minimum for your circumstances. To find out the minimum working hours, see 'How many hours do you have to work each week?' at the top of this page.

You also need to get in touch within one month if any of the following happen:

  • you or your partner were working at least 30 hours a week, and your hours have dropped to less than 30 hours a week
  • you're in a couple with children, and your joint working hours drop to less than 30 a week
  • you or your partner stop working

If you don't report these changes you may get paid too much money, which you may have to pay back. You may also have to pay a penalty.

Your hours go up

You should tell the Tax Credit Office as soon as possible if:

  • your usual hours of paid work go up
  • your income goes up because you're now working more hours

You may be able to get more tax credits if your hours go up. Any extra payments can only usually be backdated for up to one month.

If your increased hours also mean an increase in income, then your tax credit payments could go down. This is because the amount of tax credits you get depends on the amount of money you have coming in. Tell the Tax Credit Office about your increased income. If you don’t, you may be getting too much in tax credits - an overpayment - which you will have to pay back.

Contact details for the Tax Credit Office

Changes to your working hours and tax credits

Changes in income and tax credits

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More useful links

What counts as work for Working Tax Credit?

Tax credits: changes you need to report and when

Tax credits calculator - find out how much you can get

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