More than £4 billion of tax reliefs and perks are unclaimed – does HMRC owe you money?

We explain the main tax reliefs people fail to claim for and how to get your money back before the end of the tax year

Pennies in jar labelled tax relief
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Investors and savers may be focused on making the best use of their ISA and pension allowances ahead of the end of the tax year, but there could also be reliefs they are missing out on.

From pension tax relief to the marriage allowance, there are plenty of ways to get money back from HMRC and ultimately reduce your tax bill.

Analysis by bookkeeping app Pie Tax has found that there are billions of pounds worth of unclaimed money from HMRC.

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This includes unclaimed Pension Credit and tax relief as well as money left in child trust funds.

These figures alone amount to more than £4bn.

We have rounded up some of the reliefs or money you could be owed from HMRC and how to claim.

Pensions

The research from Pie Tax, which helps users reclaim owed reliefs, highlights that there was £1.7 billion in unclaimed Pension Credit for lower earners in the 2019/20 financial year.

You can check if you are eligible by using the government’s pension credit calculator.

Higher earners could also be missing out on extra money going into their retirement savings from pension tax relief.

Many high earners are failing to claim the additional 20% or 25% tax relief, on top of the 20% they already get on contributions.

Research from interactive investor revealed that 32.5% of higher-rate taxpayers with private pensions are either not planning to claim the higher tax relief, or are unsure of how to go about doing so.

Additionally, a Freedom of Information request by PensionBee last year also discovered that £1.3 billion in pension tax relief went unclaimed between 2016/17 and 2020/21.

“A lot of people are aware that they get tax relief when they make pension contributions,” says Joshua Gerstler, chartered financial planner at The Orchard Practice.

“However what many are not aware of is that if you are a higher rate or additional rate taxpayer, you only receive the basic rate of tax relief. 

“This could be a lot of money. If you are an additional rate taxpayer and you have contributed the maximum £48,000 into your pension, the government will top it up with £12,000 taking the total into your pension to £60,000. 

“If you then send in your self-assessment tax return, the government will reduce your tax bill by a further £15,000. 

“So the £60,000 into your pension has only cost you £33,000.”

You can claim the extra pension tax relief through a self-assessment tax return or you can call or write to HMRC and claim your tax relief that way.

HMRC will usually then adjust your tax code to pay the extra tax relief. If you don’t have any earnings, you may be sent a cheque instead.

HMRC also lets savers claim relief dating back four years.

Child trust funds

MPs highlighted last year that a total of £1.7bn was sitting in unclaimed child trust funds.

These are tax-free savings accounts that pre-dated junior ISAs and were automatically set up by the government for children born between 2002 and 2011. 

The government paid £250 when a child was born and another £250 when they turned seven, while low-income families received two £500 vouchers. 

But many families may not realise the accounts were set up and the government estimates almost 430,000 accounts have been unclaimed, worth an average of £2,000 each.

Marriage allowance

The marriage allowance lets someone who earns below the personal tax threshold transfer £1,260 of their allowance to their spouse or civil partner.

This can help reduce yours or your spouse’s tax bill by up to £252.

But HMRC estimates that around 2m eligible couples are missing out on this perk.

HMRC has a marriage allowance calculator where you can work out if you qualify and will be better off.

Ross Lacey, director at Fairview Financial Management, highlights that marriage allowance claims can also be backdated for four years “so there's still a couple of months left to claim for the 2019/20 tax year."

Don't forget about lost savings

Many savers have also forgotten about money stashed in old accounts.

National Savings & Investments estimates there is £81m of unclaimed Premium Bond prizes, so it is worth contacting the provider with your account details if you haven't checked in a while.

More than 150 million bank accounts are also thought to be dormant in the UK. You can use mylostaccount.org.uk to help find lost money or contact your bank direct if you still have the details.

Marc Shoffman

Marc Shoffman is an award-winning freelance journalist specialising in business, personal finance and property. His work has appeared in print and online publications ranging from FT Business to The Times, Mail on Sunday and The i newspaper. He also co-presents the In For A Penny financial planning podcast.