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Tax Credit check by Concentrix - single claim should have been joint claim? HELP!

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Hi,

This is my first post on here. Please help!

I received a letter last week from Concentrix on behalf of HMRC last week stating they were checking my claim for tax credits for the current year. I had put in a claim as an individual and they had information which linked someone else to my address and to me, and wanted to check if I should have been putting in a joint claim.

My situation is actually quite complicated and I am now panicking that I may have done the wrong thing and really need both reassurance and advice please asap!

Basically, my husband and I separated in January 2015 after I discovered he had been having an affair. At the time I thought this was a permanent separation. At this point, my husband and I separated our financial affairs completely other than him making maintenance payments for our children (we closed our joint account etc, I took over all responsibility for bills and payments for the family home) and he moved into a separate property, leaving me in the family home with our kids.

One issue is that he didn't change his contact details on many of his 'affairs' including his banking (!) - obviously this wasn't my responsibility or my fault but I was aware of it, as I continued to receive post for him at my house. As our separation was civil (I wouldn't say amicable...) I was ok to keep passing his post to him as it arrived. I obviously didn't fully realise the implications of him not changing his address i.e. that it would link him to this address and to me, which could cause problems for my tax credits claim....

The main problem however, is that over time we did reconcile although very gradually and are still in this process (we completed our couples counselling just last week). He does continue to rent the other property and we have not resumed any joint financial affairs at all. I still pay for all elements relating to the home I live in with our children including all bills, and he pays for everything relating to his home.

My main concern is that he has actually been staying in the family home on occasions since May (I also stayed in his house too...) but more and more regularly as time went on until he is now basically here full-time and has moved many of his belongings back into this house. I should say I was concerned about my tax credits claim as he began to stay back in the family home on occasion back in May and I actually contacted the HMRC customer service line at this point to ask how this situation would affect my claim. I was told by the person I spoke to as far as I remember as it was a while ago (and I recorded the time and date of this conversation) that there was no limit to how often my husband stayed in the home as long as he had another property which was his home i.e. he was paying for another property, paying bills, keeping his belongings there etc. I was surprised by this answer to be honest ie that there was no limit to how much he stayed, but I was reassured that I was ok to continue to claim tax credits as a single claimant. (I had said me and my husband were gradually reconciling etc and the advisor NEVER said I had to put in a 'change of circumstance') This may have been naive of me and maybe I should have looked into this further but I obviously went on what the HMRC advisor told me and didn't look into it further myself...

To complicate matters further, I am now pregnant with our third child - this was a complete unplanned accident but it clearly confirms we are having a proper relationship, so to speak.

Just to reiterate, there are still no financial links between us other than the historical ones - I am paying for 'my' home and he is paying for his and all the documents prove this. Of course, we do buy things for each other ie if we go out for a meal or a trip out with the kids etc...

The plan is that he will be moving officially back into the family home as of December ie in the next few weeks, so we can have a fresh start with Christmas and the New Year and we will once again link our financial affairs fully and he has given notice on his house so that would no longer be in his ownership - I would of course then have informed HMRC of this, and reverted to a joint claim.

I am now concerned that we have been overpaid as I should have been making a joint claim, (although when from I am not entirely sure - from when we agreed to make a go of it? the first time he stayed back in the family home? when he started staying much more regularly?) although I was only following the advice given in the phone call in May as to how our situation affected my tax credits claim. I have all the evidence which proves we have still two houses which we pay for independently as my husband is happy to co-operate in providing this (rental agreements, bank statements, utility bills, council tax statements) although the letter from Concentrix only asks for my documents. However, if you actually investigated fully (asking neighbours and so on) it would look like he moved back into my home a few months ago and obviously his address is still listed as being here on a lot of things and I am carrying his child ...

I am now really concerned about the letter I have received as I genuinely believed I had done everything according to the 'rules'. I am feeling sick with worry that I have done something wrong (even if it was unintentional) and I am going to have to not only repay a large sum but may have to face a penalty and even criminal prosecution :( my husband and parents tell me I am worrying unnecessarily and if I send in the relevant documents, together with an explanation that I didn't realise the implications of him not changing his address, it will be enough to complete the check. Is this right though?? Am I better calling HMRC direct and explaining the situation??? What I don't want to do is to send off the documents as requested and a statement which then creates further questions but equally, I don't want to 'hide' anything and then have it come and bite me later on...

Please help - as I say I am sick with worry. I am the sort of person who hates to do anything wrong and it is making me feel ill that I may have, and may have to face consequences for this. I just want to get it cleared up asap :(

Thanks.

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Tax credits define a married couple as follows:

 

A couple means a man and a woman who are married to each other and are not:

- separated under a court order, or

- separated in circumstances in which the separation is likely to be permanent

 

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/tctmanual/TCTM09320.htm

 

At the point the separation was no longer permanent would technically be when a joint claim should have been made.

 

It is unmarried couples that they would consider differently in whether they keep separate homes etc.

 

Best thing to do would be to now close the single claim to claim jointly and explain the situation and tell them you sought advice at the time. They would need to then consider based on the evidence if you should have ended the claim earlier.

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Ok, I obviously didn't know about the definition of a 'couple' from the tax credits manual - I assumed because he still had a separate house and financial affairs, and from the advice from the HMRC rep that we didn't count as a couple for tax credits purposes (although we were resuming a relationship).

 

So it is best to call Concentrix or HMRC direct? And what about sending the documentation off? Shall I do that anyway?

What is the likely outcome of this? I am aware I may have an overpayment (although I do feel this is unfair as I was going on HMRC advice) but is there a chance of a penalty or prosecution? It really was a genuine mistake and not deliberate :(

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If the letter is from concentrix you need to call them. They will tell you if documentation is stil needed (sometimes if you agree that it should be a joint claim then they don't need it, sometimes they do).

 

An overpayment is likely all it would be but ultimately it is up to them.

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Thank you - I will call them tomorrow and explain and I can send off any documents as needed. As it was a genuine mistake, I very much hope it will be just an overpayment. I am terrified it may escalate to something else :( If anyone can offer any reassurance on that, I would be so pleased. I know there are no guarantees of course. I know. But I just need to hear some kind words....

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Thank you - I will call them tomorrow and explain and I can send off any documents as needed. As it was a genuine mistake, I very much hope it will be just an overpayment. I am terrified it may escalate to something else :( If anyone can offer any reassurance on that, I would be so pleased. I know there are no guarantees of course. I know. But I just need to hear some kind words....

 

Sharky, you are doing the brave thing and ringing them to say that you've made an honest mistake. Better sooner rather than later.

 

It's quite possible that this won't go any further, HMRC don't seem to do court very often.

 

We're all with you, you're doing the right thing.

 

:grouphug: HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Aaaaagh - don't know if that makes me more scared, sorry (though I appreciate the kind words thank you!). I genuinely GENUINELY didn't know I was doing something wrong - an honest mistake as you say. Everything I have googled suggests prosecutions only take place in cases of deliberate fraud which this most definitely wasn't....I just want tomorrow to come now so I can call them and explain. Feeling very worried right now :(

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If we could offer the reassurance that nothing further would happen then we would. You're about be 5th person in the last week to come here with a similar story and we've had to say the same to them.

 

HMRC are more focused on getting the money back than prosecution, especially if it's only been a few months.

 

Penalties are charged if it is deliberate or negligent. The fact you called and asked for help proves neither are the case. If a penalty was to be charged you could easily use this call as grounds for appeal.

 

As for prosecution, it does happen but rarely. Most of the ones I've seen in the past have been government staff who would definitely know better.

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I don't think you should feel worried.

 

You're telling them before they find out, that has to count for something. In our experience on this forum, prosecutions are rare.

 

HB x


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Thank you both - that does reassure me. I will try and get some sleep now and see what the call says tomorrow and update (I know from looking at these forums that updates help...)

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I know it will be really uncomfortable having to go into detail about your situation with a stranger but try to be as honest ask you can about the initial separation so they understand that the single claim was required for a time.

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That's a good idea. Sleep well and tackle this tomorrow.

 

I'll be looking out to see how you get on.

 

HB :hug:


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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That's a good idea. Sleep well and tackle this tomorrow.

 

I'll be looking out to see how you get on.

 

HB :hug:

 

Just spoken to them and the guy I spoke to was so so nice and reassuring. He basically told me (and checked this with his supervisor) that I didn't need to end my single claim right now until my husband properly moved back in. I do need to send all the documents and he said to add a detailed covering letter with all the information which I told him (basically the same as I have written above). He said the worst I would recieve would be an overpayment to pay back though he couldn't say how far back that would go. He did say I shouldn't panic or lose any sleep as they would no way be referring me to the police, no one would be knocking on my door etc. It has definitely reassured me as he said it was clearly a complicated situation and he was sure I hadn't intended to do anything wrong. I guess I need to send everything off, then will call them again when my husband does move in officially in a few weeks time (he told me to call them rather than hmrc). He unfortunately couldn't tell me how long it would take for them to make a decision (and I have heard from googling that it can take months....) so it could still be hanging over me for a while :/ I would love for it to be sorted for Christmas and the fresh start I hoped for but don't think that will be happening. Still, I do feel more reassured that I won't be hauled off to court anytime soon..... Thanks all for your advice. I will get together the information and statement and send it off today. I will come back when I get an answer whenever that is.....

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Well done you! So it wasn't that bad then?

 

You're on the right road now, I hope it continues to go well for you. :)

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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i think your worst case scenario here is a possible overpayment since may, but look at it realistically, how different would it have been if it was a joint claim?

 

I dont know the ins and outs of tax credits but i wouldnt have thought we were talking a massive difference here.

 

Youve done the right thing so far


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