ECJ backs UK’s right to restrict child benefits

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the UK government is within its right to restrict child benefits and tax credit to some EU migrants, despite the European Commission calling it ‘discriminatory’

The Court ruled that ‘there is nothing to prevent the grant of social benefits to EU citizens who are not economically active being made subject to the requirement that those citizens fulfil the conditions for possessing a right to reside lawfully in the host member state’.

The Commission argued that the UK restricting benefits to migrants that were not ‘economically active’ – did not have the right to reside in the UK – could claim to be discriminatory, on the grounds of nationality.

The ECJ dismissed the Commission stating that ‘this difference in treatment can be justified by a legitimate objective such as the need to protect the finances of the host member state’.

Although, the ECJ said that ‘the condition requiring a right to reside in the UK gives rise to unequal treatment because UK nationals can satisfy it more easily’, the need to protect the member state’s finances overrules this, as long as it does not go beyond what is needed to achieve this objective.

Under UK legislation it states that in order to claim child benefit and child tax credit the claimant must be in the UK to receive these benefits. The claimant is only eligible if they are physically in the UK, a resident in the UK and has the right to reside in the country.

EU citizens with a valid passport are able to ‘live in another EU country for longer than 3 months subject to certain conditions, depending on their status in the host country. Those who are employed or self-employed do not need to meet any other conditions. Students and other people not working for payment, such as those in retirement, must have sufficient resources for themselves and their family, so as not to be a burden on the host country’s social assistance system, and comprehensive sickness insurance cover’, according to the directive on EU freedom of movement.

The judgment on European Commission v United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Case C-308/14) is here. 

The directive on EU freedom of movement and residence is here. 

Amy Austin |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2016-2019]

Amy Austin was reporter, Accountancy Daily and Accountancy magazine, published by ...

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