Bringing up kids is like taking a full-time job on top of your full-time job. It’s never going to be easy, but at least you can count on some help from the government in the form of the Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare schemes.

What is the tax-free childcare scheme?

The Tax-Free Childcare scheme lets you claim up to £500 every 3 months for each of your kids, to help out with your childcare costs. Basically, for every £8 you save into an online account, the government kicks in an extra £2. The cash can be used to pay for certain approved services, like registered childminders or home careworkers. Kids aged 3-4 can also qualify for 30 hours of free early education or childcare with an “approved provider”. It actually works out as £1,140 hours a year, since they calculate it as £30 for 38 weeks. There are rules about who’s eligible for both schemes, obviously.

Am I entitled to compensation or a refund if I couldn't claim my tax-free childcare?

That’s how it’s all supposed to work, anyway. Recently, technical glitches have been stopping people from accessing the services they’re entitled to. To some it’s been an annoyance; to others with tighter finances, it’s a little more serious. The good news either way is that there’s something you can do about it.

When your Childcare Account for either system has been hit by technical issues, HMRC is supposed to fix it quickly. If they can’t or don’t, you could be eligible for either a refund on your Tax-Free Childcare or compensation for your 30 hours free childcare.

For example, HMRC might refund your Tax-Free Childcare payment if:

  • You couldn’t complete your online application form or access your account.
  • The service itself isn’t working properly.
  • There’s a serious delay or mistake at their end.

For the 30 hours free childcare scheme, you might be able to get compensation if:

  • You couldn’t take up a place.
  • You paid for something that should have been free.

How do I make my childcare compensation claim?

You can claim a Tax-Free Childcare refund through an online form on the HMRC site. For the 30 hours free childcare scheme, you need to write to HMRC directly, though. You’ll have to give some details about yourself and why you’re entitled to compensation, and it could be up to 28 days before you get a decision.

A lot of people never realise that they can get a refund or compensation when something goes wrong at HMRC. It’s worth remembering that the taxman isn’t deliberately trying to cheat you. Like anyone else, though, he sometimes makes mistakes or suffers a computer meltdown. When that happens, you aren’t necessarily out of luck – but you often have to kick up a fuss to get what you’re owed. Whatever HMRC troubles you’re having, get in touch with RIFT to find out where you stand.

At RIFT we've been claiming overpaid tax back since 1999, that's what makes us the UK's leading tax rebate and tax return experts.