Childcare voucher scheme
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The Childcare Voucher Scheme is a UK government initiative aimed at helping working parents to benefit from tax efficiencies in order to save money on childcare. The scheme is normally offered as a salary sacrifice scheme, which means that UK parents who are in the scheme are able to sacrifice part of their salary in order to obtain childcare vouchers (of an equal amount). In doing this the parents do not pay any tax or national insurance on the amount contributed to the childcare vouchers scheme up to specified limits. Due to this tax efficiency, the childcare voucher scheme has limits in place, after which you would pay for childcare in the usual taxable fashion.
For example, a parent given £55 per week (£243 per month) in Childcare Vouchers after taking a salary sacrifice of the same amount, will then benefit by saving up to £933 tax/NIC.
What can childcare vouchers be used for?
Childcare vouchers can be used for childcare, au pairs, after-school clubs, and any other registered childcare providers. Childcare providers should contact the relevant Childcare Voucher providers in order to register with them and become a redeemer, the redeemer should be regulated (i.e. for UK redeemers they should be Ofsted registered). You can find out more about how to register via the various references at the bottom of this page.
Businesses benefit too
The nature of the scheme has allowed many businesses to benefit from running a scheme too. Although initially aimed at UK working parents, by providing a scheme businesses essentially lowered their own national insurance contributions as the vouchers are exempt from employer's NICs. Businesses also found other benefits in an increase in staff satisfaction and a reduction in staff turnover, saving indirectly on costs such as employing and training staff.
UK working parents are eligible. The scheme is not provided on a per-child basis, but on a per person basis, so both parents can claim under the scheme rules. The scheme can be available at the same time as working tax credits, however, this may not always be beneficial. It is possible to utilise a calculator to ensure that you are both going to save money and to work out how much you might be able to save.
Childcare vouchers are provided either by an employer, usually through a childcare voucher scheme provider that an employer chooses. If you would like to know if your company offers childcare vouchers scheme and who your childcare voucher scheme is provided by you should ask your HR or payroll department who your provider is, or encourage them to sign up with a provider. There are many childcare voucher scheme providers available, many of whom offer extra benefits on top of the childcare voucher scheme.
The Childcare Voucher Scheme was first introduced by Sue Harvey, Managing Director of the Luncheon Voucher Group in 1989. Since then many people have benefited from using the scheme. In 2009 a petition was started on the "Number 10" website in order to stop the government from shutting down the scheme. Due to the recession the government had been considering shutting the scheme down and therefore, earning a lot more in tax, however, Gordon Brown the Prime Minister at the time, decided against it. The petition finished with 93,000 signatories on it, and although now closed, is still available for viewing (Wikipedia blocks the word petition so it cannot be included in references). In April 2011, the government did make cuts to the scheme ensuring that high earners benefited less from the scheme. This is achieved by restricting the amounts that higher and additional rate taxpayers can receive tax and NI exempt.
- Basic rate taxpayers can have up to £55 a week (£243 a month) tax and NI exempt
- Higher rate taxpayers can have up to £28 a week (£124 a month) tax and NI exempt
- Additional rate taxpayers can have up to £25 a week (£110 a month) tax and NI exempt
The restrictions only apply to those who joined the scheme on or after 6 April 2011. Those who were already receiving childcare vouchers on this date can receive £243 a month tax and NI exempt until they stop receiving vouchers for longer than 12 months, change employer or no longer qualify for the scheme.