Married couples tend to pool their resources and share fiscal burdens, but the UK tax system treats every individual as an independent person. This can lead to families paying more tax overall.
Where one person earns the majority of the family income, he or she may pay more tax than if both individuals each earned approximately half of the same total, and hence use their full personal allowance and basic rate bands.
Such inequality can be eased by the lower earner transferring 10% of their unused Personal Allowance to their higher earning spouse. This transferred amount is called the Marriage Allowance, as it can only be claimed by married couples or those in a civil partnership.
The marriage allowance is worth £250 for 2019/20. The person who is transferring their Personal Allowance must claim, and the recipient must be taxed at no more than 20% (21% for Scottish taxpayers). Claims can be back-dated to 2015/16, when the Marriage Allowance was introduced.
If you were widowed in the last four years, you can still claim the marriage allowance for years in which your partner was living from 6 April 2015 onwards.
You can claim the Marriage Allowance in your tax return, online, by calling 0300 200 3300, or by writing to HMRC. We can help you with this.