Magee Gammon News Back to school – childcare vouchers or tax-free childcare account?

Back to school – childcare vouchers or tax-free childcare account?

Tax-free childcare accounts will gradually replace childcare voucher schemes as no new schemes could be set up after 4 October 2018. Those within voucher schemes continue to be eligible until their child is aged 16, provided the employer is willing to continue operating the scheme.

Many organisations provided the vouchers by way of salary sacrifice and there were tax and NIC advantages for both employers and employees. Despite the PAYE and NIC advantages, not all employers provided childcare vouchers. Depending upon when they joined the voucher scheme, employees could be provided with vouchers worth up to £55 a week (£2,860 p.a.) free of tax and NICs.

For more details see: Help paying for childcare: Childcare vouchers and other employer schemes – GOV.UK (

However, with many employees working from home during the pandemic and with the move to hybrid working, many families found that they were not using all of their vouchers and are choosing to leave the scheme and use the Government’s Tax-Free Childcare account instead. Note that that scheme is generally only available to pay for care for children up to age 12.

Which scheme an employee is better off with depends on their personal situation. They can use the Government’s childcare calculator to work out which type of support is best for them.

One other major difference between the two schemes is that Tax-Free Childcare accounts are available to the self-employed as well as to employees.

There continues to be poor take-up of the Government’s Tax-Free Childcare Accounts which provide a 25% subsidy towards the cost of childcare. The system operates by topping up savings of up to £8,000 per child by 25%, potentially an extra £2,000 from the Government to spend on qualifying childcare. The scheme generally applies to children under 12 and the account can be used to pay nursery fees, breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and registered childminders.

To be eligible, the parent generally needs to be working and earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average. In a 3-month period, they need to earn at least £1,976 and will not be eligible if their (or their partner’s) adjusted net income is more than £100,000 a year.

Note that the two schemes are mutually exclusive, and employers must stop giving their employees childcare vouchers with income tax and NIC relief if the employee informs them that they’ve started using the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. Employees must notify their employer within 90 days of their application for a Tax-Free Childcare account. The employer may need to stop or change the employee’s salary sacrifice arrangement and must also update the employee’s contract and payroll.

Please get in touch if you require any assistance.

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