Unclaimed Pension Credits and How to Reclaim Them
If you’re of pensionable age, it could well be that there’s money due to you from the government that you’re not claiming. Pension credits, as they’re known, have been around for a few years now, and could be putting a few extra pounds in your pocket each week.
What Are Pension Credits?The aim behind pension credits is to eliminate pensioner poverty and allow senior citizens to live with a degree of comfort and dignity. Additionally, people who apply for these can apply for other benefits that affect seniors, such as Council Tax benefit, housing benefit, and a winter fuel supplement. Pensioners who live at home but are ill can also claim attendance allowance to cover the extra costs they incur.
There are two components to pension credits. The first is the guarantee credit, which can be claimed under certain circumstances from the age of 60, and then there’s the savings credit, for which you might be eligible after you’re 65.
You can qualify for a guarantee credit if you’re 60 or over (or within just four months of your 60th birthday) and your weekly income is less than £119.05 (£181.70 with a civil partner or partner). You’ll then receive the difference between your actual income and the pension credit minimum.
Over the age of 65, if your total weekly income – and that means investments, savings and pensions – runs between £87.30 and £167 (£139.60 - £245 with a partner or civil partner) then you’re eligible to receive the savings credit. There’s an upper limit on the savings credit (although you can also receive the guarantee credit) of £19.05 if you’re single and £25.26 for couples.
You do need to be aware of what’s considered income, though. It includes money you earn from employment or self-employment (that’s calculated after expenses, taxes and contributions). Working tax credit and many benefits are also taken into account. Finally, there’s what called an “assumed income” of £1 for each £500 of capital you have over £6,000 (£10,000 if you’re a permanent resident of a care home). Capital will include investments, insurance policies, savings and property, although you main home isn’t included. You can qualify even if you’ve never made any National Insurance contributions.
Getting Pension CreditThere’s no mystery or difficulty in applying for pension credit. You can simply download a form from the Directgov website, print it out, fill out the sections and return it by post, or you can do everything on the phone. Tell the person you talk to that you’re applying for pension credit and they’ll guide you through the process. You won’t, unfortunately be able to claim back to your 60th or 65th birthday.
If you’re refused pension credit and you believe the decision is wrong, ask the office where you applied to review the decision. If you believe the outcome of that is still wrong, you can go to a Unified Appeal Tribunal, which is an independent body that will offer a final decision on the matter.
Remember, too, that if your circumstances change, you might be eligible for a larger pension credit, up to the maximum, so you need to inform you local pension centre if your income or circumstances change.