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Child/Working Tax Credit Dispute

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Hi all,

 

Got a bit of a problem and I'm really struggling to find some advice on what I can do to resolve the problem. Basically I'm in the process of separating from my wife BUT because we're unable to sell our house we're still living together as a 'family' (Dad, Mum & Son). We decided to separate in Aug 08 but we're still living in the same house as a 'family', all income & bills come from the same bank account and for our sons benefit we still eat together.

 

 

 

The problem we have is that because we continue to live as a 'family' we didn't tell the HMRC about this change until May 09 and they're now claiming we should've told them in Aug 08 and they want to reclaim ALL the Child/Working Tax Credit from Aug 08 to May 09 (also on a number of occasions we contacted them we were also told we DID NOT have to change our Child/Working Tax Credit claim until we physically separated). We've appealed their decision and the conflicting information we've been given in the past but this doesn't appear to have helped (though they did apologise for giving us the wrong information - great help!!).

 

 

Can anyone out there give us some advice on what we can do next??

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You can have a Tax Credit claim as a lone parent whilst living in the same house as an ex partner however this can only be done if the ex partner is not contributing to the household income and expenditure.

 

Are you saying that you continued to have a joint claim? That you didn't try to claim as two seperate people until May 09?

 

If so, you have actually done the right thing because if either you or your wife had been claiming as a lone parent, and they discovered the household income and expenditure had remained joint they would have reason to prosecute for fraud.

 

From what you have posted it appears that you and your wife have continued to be "partners" in the benefit sense aside from sleeping together, everything else is as it were for the sake of the little one.

 

Ok....appeals....you haven't "appealed" the decision as such, you have "disputed" it. The difference is, an appeal is independant and considered by the tribunals service. A dispute is internal and considered by HMRC (Tax Credit). A decision to recover an overpayment carries no independent right to appeal, though you can dispute it.

 

So you have disputed it and they have responded, apologised for providing incorrect information but still insisting that they are going to pursue recovery? Hope I have that right so far....

 

One thing to consider is, have they admitted to providing incorrect info? For example, have they stated in their letter something along the lines of "I am sorry we have given you the wrong information", or was it along the lines of "I am sorry if we have given you the wrong information"............? Not the use of the word "if" in the second example. What I am saying is this: If they have outright admitted to giving you the incorrect information then you have further grounds to fight their decision. If they have indicated that they MAY have given you the wrong information, it's not as solid as an outright admission.

 

Now, taking it further. Because there is no independent right of appeal regards the decision to recover an overpayment, there are two options available to you. The first is using the complaints service, and if you continue to be unsatisfied with their response to your complaint, it can be escalated further. It works like this:

 

Complain to Tax Credit by writing to: Complaints Manager, Tax Credit Office, PO Box 145, Preston, PR1 0SB. Tell them why you are complaining - that you were provided with incorrect advise by Tax Credit which has resulted in an overpayment which they have decided must now be paid back, highlighting that if you were given the correct advise (to close the claim and open a new claim with the new circumstances), you would have followed the advise given and the overpayment would not have occurred. As it is you have followed incorrect advise, which has led you to the predicament you are in now. ENSURE you point out that you did tell them the change of circumstances and at that point they gave you the advice that you did not need to report it and your claim would stay as it was. Because essentially, you HAVE informed them. They have failed to act on that information and given the wrong advise.

 

They usually contact you within 15 days of receiving your complaint. It isn't clear whether this is working days or calendar days. Once they respond, if you are unhappy with the response, the next step is to ask them to look at the complaint again. This will go to "The complaints review team" who will look at how the complaint was handled, whether the response was correct. They will then provide you with a final decision. If you are still unhappy, you then ask the adjudicator to look at it. The adjudicator is independant. You must have exhausted the Tax credit complaint procedure before you contact the adjudicator. If you do not, the adjudicator will simply write to you and advise you that you need to complain to tax credit first.

 

The adjudicator's address is: The Adjudicator's Office

8th Floor

Euston Tower

286 Euston Road

London

NW1 3US

 

If the adjudicator provides an unsatisfactory response, you can ask your MP to refer the matter to the Parlimentary Ombudsman.

 

Your initial dispute is not a complaint therefore you must follow the full procedure.

 

The other option is to request a judicial review. This is a legal process, can be very expensive, If you were to choose this path you should seek legal advice.

 

Another idea is to submit a subject access request, where you request all information they hold on you, including clerical papers and recordings of telephone conversations. This you can rifle through to try to find something incriminating, such as a phone recording of you saying "My wife and I have seperated, what do we do?" and them replying "No need to do anything, you don't need to report it until you no longer live in the same household" or a note in your account "telephone call from customer advising of relationship breakdown with partner - bingo! incorrect advise, right there. Bingo! Proof that you HAVE informed them of your change of circumstances. The recordings are usually released in CD format, I believe. You can be charged for a subject access request, I believe the fee is £10. They have 40 (working I believe) days to provide it. Obviously you should not wait that long before you make your first complaint but if they provide a response that is not satisfactory, you can rest assured that if it gets to the stage of ajudicator/parlimentary ombudsman that by that time, you will have access to all of the information they hold on you which you may be able to use to back your case up.

Edited by ErikaPNP

My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

 

 

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