When an individual is married or in a civil partnership and has little or no income so that they don’t use their entire personal allowance (£11,500 for 2017- 18), that person can elect to transfer 10% of their allowance to their partner. This is called the marriage allowance. The recipient must pay tax at no more than 20%. Thus, the allowance is worth a maximum of £230 for 2017-18 (£1,150 x 20%).
Once the election for the marriage allowance is in place it continues to apply until it is revoked, the couple divorce, or one of them dies. Sadly, the opportunity to claim the marriage allowance is often only recognised when one of the partners has died, and in that case it can be too late to claim, because the marriage no longer exists.
The law will be changed on 29 November 2017 to allow claims for the marriage allowance to be made on behalf of a deceased person. Any claim for the marriage allowance can be back-dated up to four years, but not to a year earlier than 2015- 16. This extension of the allowance to couples who have been separated by death will allow widows or widowers to resubmit a claim where it has been refused in the past.