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The High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC) was introduced in 2013, following initial proposals announced by the then Chancellor George Osborne in October 2010 for withdrawing Child Benefit from higher rate payers, which Mr Osborne modified in the 2012 Budget. (The policy background to the introduction of the HICBC is discussed in, Child Benefit for higher income families, Commons Library briefing CBP6299, 16 April 2012.)

The HICBC is collected through self assessment, so that individuals who are liable to pay it are required to file an annual tax return if they do not already do so. There have been concerns about the number of taxpayers who have been charged penalties for failing to register their liability and pay the charge through their tax return, as well as the rise in taxpayers liable to pay the charge as the £50,000 threshold has not been increased since the HICBC was introduced.

Rather than pay the HICBC, individuals who have been awarded Child Benefit may make an election not to receive this payment. There have also been concerns that some families have decided simply not to claim Child Benefit, without being aware of the potential impact this may have on their entitlement to contributory benefits.

This briefing gives a short background to the introduction of the HICBC and long-standing criticisms that have been made of its design, before looking at these two sets of concerns about its operation, and recent debate as to whether the HICBC should be reformed.

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