Belfast NHS workers get emergency childcare tax bill

70% of working parents require more long-term childcare supportA total of 130 NHS workers have reportedly received an increased tax bill due to their emergency childcare during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

According to staff employed by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, they were offered free emergency childcare as they could not work from home when schools and care facilities were closed.

The workers told Belfast Live that the trust assured them this would be free, but have now received tax bills of more than £3,000. Some 213 members of staff accessed the childcare from April to June, with 130 using it afterwards.

They received a letter on 27 May, stating that after 8 June the childcare would be viewed as a taxable benefit, but then received another letter, which said: “I wish to emphasise it is the Belfast Trust position that there will be no financial detriment to staff in relation to childcare costs.”

A Belfast Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson explained that it was granted authority under a HMRC PAYE scheme to pay tax contributions for childcare, but since then it has not extended it further.

The spokesperson said: “The scheme was open to all key worker parents employed in the trust who experienced increased registered childcare costs as a result of supporting the response to Covid-19 during the period 1 April to 30 June 2020, or whose childcare arrangements were stood down during this period. In total the childcare scheme cost £902,570, of which Belfast Trust was authorised by HMRC to pay tax and National insurance contributions of £372,190 for staff.”

According to a HMRC spokesperson, the services are unable to comment on individual cases due to taxpayer confidentiality, but where an employer provides a non-cash benefit to an employee, that benefit in kind is taxable.

“For childcare, where an employer arranges with a commercial provider to provide childcare for employees’ children or provides childcare vouchers for the employee to use, that is a taxable benefit in kind. Where an employer provides a workplace nursery, that may be exempt from tax and National Insurance where certain conditions are met,” the spokesperson said.