Rules around the allowance, what happens on year of eligibility and on death.


Taxpayers living in the UK are entitled to a personal allowance and – if married or in a civil partnership – may also be able to claim marriage allowance or married couple’s allowance too.


Below we examine rules regarding the allowance, what happens on year of eligibility and on death.

 Married couple’s allowance

Married couple’s allowance is available to any married couple where at least one spouse was born before 6 April 1935. Entitlement to married couple’s allowance is extended to same-sex couples who are civil partners under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 if at least one partner was born before 6 April 1935. Unlike the age-related personal allowance the age reference to 1935 does not normally change from tax year to tax year.

For marriages before 5 December 2005, the husband’s income is used to work out married couple’s allowance. For marriage and civil partnerships after this date, it’s the income of the highest earner.

Married couple’s allowance applies as a reduction in the claimant’s income tax liability. The reduction is 10% of the amount of the allowance. This tax reduction (like other tax reductions) is restricted to the extent that it would otherwise exceed the individual’s remaining tax liability after making all prior reductions.

The couple should be living together during the tax year. It is possible that when an elderly taxpayer moves into a care home the couple may become separated for tax purposes and the married couple’s allowance may no longer be available.

Year of marriage

Where the marriage or civil partnership is entered into during the tax year (and in that year the person had not previously been entitled to the married couple’s allowance), the allowance is reduced by one-twelfth for each ‘fiscal month’ of the tax year ending before the date of the marriage or civil partnership.

For example, if marriage occurred on 3 October 2017, there would be five fiscal months (five months from 6 April 2017 to 5 September 2017) up to 3 October 2017. The reduction in the allowance is computed after applying any necessary restriction by reference to the income limit.

Year of death

Where either the husband or wife – or either civil partner – dies in a tax year then married couple’s allowance is available as if the marriage or civil partnership had continued until the end of that tax year. There is no reduction in the married couple’s allowance in the year of death.

The ‘higher married couple’s allowance’ and ‘income limits’ are as follows:

Basic married                        Maximum married                              Income

couple’s allowance                couple’s allowance                            limit

2017/18                      £3,260                                    £8,445                                    £28,000

2016/17                      £3,220                                    £8,355                                    £27,700

2015/16                      £3,220                                    £8,355                                    £27,700

2014/15                      £3,140                                    £8,165                                    £27,000

The ‘higher married couple’s allowance’ is available where the claimant or his wife is at any time in the tax year aged 75 or over, or would have been but for his or her death in that year. In recent years this would apply as if one of the spouses was born on 5 April 1935 that person would be 80 years old on 5 April 2015.

Where the claimant’s adjusted net income exceeds the income limit, the maximum allowance is reduced by one-half of the excess, except that it cannot be reduced to less than the basic married couple’s allowance (ie the married couple’s allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 of income over this limit).

Example – 2016/17 tax year

Mr A is a married man, born on 1 February 1934. He has a net income of £33,000 for 2016/17 and no dividend income or savings income. He and his wife were married before 5 December 2005 and they were living together for the 2016/17 tax year.

Net income                                                                                                    33,000

Less Personal Allowance                                                                              11,000

Taxable income                                                                                             22,000

Tax payable at 20% on £22,000                                                                      4,400

Less Married Couple’s Allowance £5,705 @ 10%                                             570

Tax payable                                                                                                     3,830

Workings to calculate £5,705 figure above

Maximum married couple’s allowance                                                            8,355

As income is over Income Limit of £27,700

Excess of Net Income over Income Limit

(£33,000 – £27,700) = £5,300

Maximum allowance reduced by half of excess £5,300/2                             2,650

Reduced Married Couple’s Allowance                                                           5,705

You can read HMRC’s guidance on this matter.

 Marriage allowance

Marriage allowance was introduced from 2015/16. Subject to certain conditions an individual may transfer part of his/her personal allowance to a spouse or civil partner.

The transferable amount is:

(a)  For the tax year 2015-16 is £1,060 and

(b)  For the tax year 2016-17 and subsequent tax years is 10% of the amount of the personal allowance for the tax year to which the reduction relates. If the transferable amount so calculated would not be a multiple of £10 it is rounded up to the nearest amount which is a multiple of £10.

Relief is given to the transferee spouse/partner by means of a reduction in what would otherwise be the transferee’s income tax liability equal to tax at the basic rate for the year on the transferred amount.

Conditions for transferor to meet

  1. The transferor is married to, or in a civil partnership with, the same person when the election is made and for at least part of the tax year in question
  2. The transferor is entitled to the personal allowance for the year
  3. The transferor would not be liable to income tax at the higher or additional rate or the dividend upper or additional rate (assuming that the marriage allowance election was successful)
  4. For transferors who are non-UK residents they need to be eligible for a personal allowance.

Conditions for transferee to meet

  1. The transferee is married to, or in a civil partnership with, a person who has made a marriage allowance election which is in force for the tax year in question
  2. The transferee is not liable for that year to income tax at the higher or additional rate or the dividend upper or additional rate
  3. The transferee is UK resident for the year or, if non-UK resident, is eligible for personal allowances
  4. Neither the transferee nor the transferee’s spouse or civil partner makes a claim to married couple’s allowance for the year.

Election for Marriage Allowance

The election must be made by the transferor no later than four years after the end of the tax year to which it relates. Provided the transferor conditions are met the election, once made, continues for each subsequent tax year unless:

(a)  It is made after the end of the tax year to which it relates, in which case it has effect for that one year only; or

(b)  It is withdrawn by notice given by the individual by whom it was made; or

(c)  The transferor’s spouse or civil partner does not obtain a tax reduction in respect of a tax year for which an election is in force, in which case it ceases to have effect for subsequent tax years, although the person can make further elections.

Example – 2016/17 tax year

A married woman receives taxable income of £9,000 in 2016/17 from self -employment and she has no other taxable income. Her husband has employment income of £43,000 and no other taxable income. They are not eligible for married couple’s allowance. The wife has elected for ‘marriage allowance’ to transfer part of her personal allowance to her husband.


Employment income                                                           43,000

Less personal allowance                                                   11,000

Taxable income                                                                   32,000

Tax due          £32,000 @ 20%                                            6,400

Less transferable tax allowance £1,100 @ 20%                                       220

Tax due                                                                                              6,180 



Self-employment income                                                               9,000

Less personal allowance                           11,000

Less transferred tax allowance                   1,100


Taxable income nil as income lower than Personal Allowance    nil

Tax Saving

If personal allowance was not transferred then husband would pay tax of (£32,000 at 20%) £6,400. Therefore the couple have saved £220 in tax by transferring part of the wife’s personal allowance.

You can read HMRC’s further guidance on this matter.

Article from ACCA In Practice