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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2008 :  09:23:49  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Here's Nick Clegg's one (again, forgive the lost emphasis and the layout, size of quotes, etc., which looks better in the original). I'm not sure I didn't do some further editing, too... But it at least sets out what certain Lib Dems have said in support and sets the scene for a bit of compassion towards those mugged by HMRC. Again, please feel free to use anything useful for your own letters to your Lib Dem MPs and to Nick Clegg!

8th November 2008

Dear Nick Clegg,

With a general election coming ever closer, Gordon Brown’s fortunes frequently changing, and the Liberal Democrats under new, strong leadership, it seems likely that the Party could do very well in the next election. I am therefore writing to you, on behalf of the national voluntary user group Tax Credit Casualties, to ask you what the Lib Dems are willing to do in order to help those millions of honest and compliant tax credit claimants who have unwittingly received tax credit overpayments and are now locked in torturous dispute with the unaccountable, bureaucratic and ruthless Revenue and Customs trying desperately to prove they were never at fault and deserve a full write-off? (Please see You must be logged in to see this link. and be horrified at the outrages revealed!)

Since 2005 Tax Credit Casualties across Britain have been adding their voices to those of organisations such as One Parent Families and the Child Poverty Action Group, and to the Parliamentary Ombudsman and numerous cross-party MPs who have all been calling at various times for a Tax Credit Amnesty. Many overpaid tax credit claimants are lower income families who have turned away in disgust from the Labour Party which they previously supported, due to the complacency and denial exhibited by senior Labour ministers whenever the tax credit overpayment travesty is mentioned. We are now looking for a party truly committed to social justice, which is prepared to pay more than just lip service to the principles of fairness, justice and equality. I hope you will be able to confirm to me your commitment to a tax credit overpayment amnesty in all cases where the claimant has not committed fraud nor acted dishonestly.

I know you recognize the misery caused by tax credit created debt, as you have expressed a wish to invest further in Citizens Advice as a source of support for those falling foul of, among other things, the tax credit system:

The Liberal Democrats will create a trusted, nationwide generic financial advice service offering face to face advice, supported by a telephone and web-based service…The Citizens Advice Bureau would be used as the basis for these services…This would all people to have access to impartial information and advice regarding extreme debt cases; issues around benefit and tax credits…

You must be logged in to see this link.


You have already noted the dangers of this system for many honest and compliant claimants:

For families, the Tax Credit system has proved so fiendishly complicated that a third of all awards are paid incorrectly each year at a cost of £2bn - which is then demanded back. You must be logged in to see this link.

…[referring to] the "fiendishly complicated" tax credits system. Mr Clegg said: "It's a tombola tax system. Gordon Brown treats tax likes Forrest Gump treats a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get." You must be logged in to see this link.

Although, with HMRC’s harsh recovery practices, including telling claimants they cannot appeal against a recovery decision (when they can dispute), threatening court, taking premature court action using Certificates of Debt HMRC itself writes (unverified), acting as judge and jury in its own cause, and hitting claimants with demands for – often – several thousand pounds at a time, Tax Credit Casualties would see the dangerously erratic tax credit system as more like Russian Roulette than a benign tombola, where there is nothing substantial to lose!

You have already advocated for justice for war veterans paid money in error:

Shocked war veterans have been told they must hand back £1.7 million of their pensions after the Ministry of Defence admitted they had been overpaid. Officials confessed that almost 100 armed forces veterans had received pension overpayments every month due to a bureaucratic error…. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg called on Gordon Brown to step in, saying: "The Government's treatment of the men and women who serve our country is a national badge of shame. The Prime Minister must write off these overpayments and reassure the 98 veterans that they will not be held responsible for a government mistake." You must be logged in to see this link.

Surely vulnerable lower income families, albeit not war veterans but still honest and deserving citizens, deserve similar consideration? I am sure the Liberal Democrats are brave enough to put these wrongs right in the name of social justice.

It may also be helpful for you to consider what other Liberal Democrats have said on the subject of overpayments, beginning with the TCC’s foremost Lib Dem ally, David Laws:

Liberal Democrats call for Primarolo to resign
David Laws, the Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman, said the troubled tax credits system remained a "nightmare" and lambasted Ms Primarolo for complacency…Mr Laws warned that low-income families were being plunged into debt by being paid too much in tax credits, only to face large sums being clawed back at the end of the tax year…
You must be logged in to see this link.

David Laws has supported an Amnesty for non-fraudulent overpayments:

Blair apologises for tax blunders
David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said that the reports showed that the design of the system was "flawed."
Mr Laws added that the call to write off overpayments was "sensible and logical". You must be logged in to see this link.

From Jason Zadrozny:
"Last May, the government claimed that the system was working well for the vast majority of families. But today's figures show that the government is clearly in denial - in actual fact nationwide 44%, over 2.8 million people, received incorrect tax credit payments….Families…want to see the government finally taking action to radically change the way tax credits are administered."
You must be logged in to see this link.

From Peter Black:
"This is not a minor policy mistake, this is an absolute disgrace." said Mr Black. "The issue here is not the fact that overpayments occurred, that is in the past. What we have now is the aggressive strategy of forcing some of the poorest in our communities to repay large quantities of money in order to rectify the governments mistakes." "A small overpayment of only £10 a week could leave a family with over £1,000 within two years. Families can not be expected to notice a mistake that small, when they did they were very often told it was not an error. They now find themselves with large debts….Tax credits were meant to help the poorest in our communities, instead it has become a millstone around many families necks and is dragging them further into poverty. This mistake must fall at the feet of the UK government . They must ensure that the Department of Work and Pensions [sic] is acting in the best interests of those who need the most help."
You must be logged in to see this link.

From John Hemming:
HMRC Tax Credits - the saga of the cover-up continues
One reason used for HMRC to ask people to pay their tax credits back is the so called "no receipt" of the annual return. What it means is that if the annual return gets lost in the post then people have to repay all the tax credits and there is no way of changing this… I have asked two parliamentary questions… Under FOI we got the answer "this information is not available at this level" we have appealed asking for the information from another level and will over time go to the Information Commissioner. This is an obvious cover up. I asked Harriet Harman about the issue and she said that it was an issue. My guess is that it involves a lot of people and a lot of money and the government don't want to have to pay the money. If the issue is properly understood they wouldn't get away with this. You must be logged in to see this link.

… Today I attended a meeting of Tax Credit Casualties. What we have is the state intervening with families to cause chaos. With TCC there are cases where someone has to pay all their tax credit back simply because their annual return got lost in the post. You must be logged in to see this link.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Guidelines from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs relating to tax credits, which I believe are a wrong interpretation of the law, imply that people whose annual return is sent in late have to pay back all their tax credit. May we have a debate on the merits of that rather silly rule, which means that if an annual return is lost in the post, people have to repay all their tax credits? You must be logged in to see this link.

From Mike Hancock:
Just look at the record. The derisory 75p a week increase in the pension? That was Gordon’s. The architect of fiendishly complex tax credits that has seen billions in over-payments and fraud? Gordon. You must be logged in to see this link.

From Alistair Carmichael:
22/06/2005 REPORTS ADD TO CASE TO WRITE OFF TAX CREDIT OVERPAYMENTS - CARMICHAEL
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael called on the Government to admit they had made mistakes with the administration of family tax credits. The government's tax credit system is subject to "completely unacceptable" errors, Citizens Advice (CAB) has said. A third of recipient families have been overpaid - and many forced into poverty when HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) takes back overpayments, the charity said….“Labour has created an over-complex system based on means-testing. It is simply unacceptable that families in this country are being left with a meagre income because of mistakes made by the system. Urgent action must be taken to sort this mess out.” You must be logged in to see this link.

From the Tax Credits Opposition Day, 7th June 2006, there was also overwhelming Liberal Democrat support (50 votes in favour) for clarity of purpose in addressing the numerous problems within the system, as the following shows:

I beg to move,

That this House notes the overpayment, fraud and incompetence in the administration of the tax credit system; is concerned about the impact of this incompetence on the most vulnerable members of society; and calls upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the author of the tax credit policy, to explain to this House what measures are being undertaken to address these problems.

The House having divided: Ayes 218, Noes 287
You must be logged in to see this link.

The Lib Dems have elsewhere signaled support for a write-off of all overpayments not arising from fraud on the part of the claimant:

Write off tax credit errors, says watchdog
Pressure was mounting on the government last night to write off hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax-credit cash mistakenly paid to families after a parliamentary watchdog sharply criticised the scheme….Opposition parties leapt on the findings, with… the Liberal Democrats urging the government to take Ms Abraham's advice and halt the clawing-back of overpayments resulting from official errors. You must be logged in to see this link.


Here is what others have said:
Ann Abraham, the parliamentary ombudsman, said the tax credits system operated in a way that could have "unintended harsh and unfair consequences" for vulnerable people. She called on officials to consider writing off all tax credit overpayments resulting from Inland Revenue errors since the system began two years ago - a move that would relieve many thousands of families from the hardship caused by demands for wrongly paid cash to be given back. The Guardian, June 22 2005

One-third of claimants were overpaid and pushed into poverty when asked to repay, Citizens Advice reported. And the Parliamentary Ombudsman accused Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo of not giving MPs a clear picture. Both reports call for overpayments to be written off. BBC News, 22 June 2005

First Steps to Reform Tax Credits, written by CPAG’s Beth Lakhani [Child Poverty Action Group], has been sent to Ministers and follows a series of critical reports from the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and Citizens Advice on the way the tax credits system has operated. CPAG’s recommendations include: An amnesty on all overpayments up to April 2005 where fraud has not been proven. You must be logged in to see this link.

I would be most interested in your thoughts on this, and would be – along with many of my TCC colleagues – more than happy to talk to you further about the injustices of recovering accidentally overpaid tax credits from needy families who spent this money in supporting their families with nothing other than completely good faith that their awards were correct.
Yours sincerely,

Alison Myers-Ward,
A National Co-ordinator of Tax Credit Casualties.




Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2008 :  09:26:23  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Okay, now to waste my time on compiling a version for lovely, listening, caring, sharing, greedy-bank-bailing-out New Labour!!

Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 11/11/2008 :  07:03:53  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
The Conservatives have started including tax credits in their critiques of the government's performance, such as Unfair Britain and Making British Poverty History, so the stage is set for us to ask for a write-off to form part of their election Manifesto...

UNFAIR BRITAIN
Tax credit error and fraud costing taxpayer £1.5 billion a year

In 2006-07, error and fraud in the tax credit system meant up to £1.5 billion was unfairly paid to claimants.

Chronic administrative errors also mean that Labour is forcing over 1.5 million people to repay tax credits as a result of overpayment. At a time when family budgets* are being squeezed, it is deeply unfair that avoidable administrative errors are causing severe hardship to some of the poorest families.

* HM Revenue and Customs, 2007-08 Accounts, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, July
2008

You must be logged in to see this link. - 2008-09-12 –


MAKING BRITISH POVERTY HISTORY
… the tax credits system is in chaos…


These problems are made worse by the administrative chaos and complexity of the tax credit system. Fraud, error and overpayments in the tax credit system have led to £5 billion being wasted. And in the last year for which we have data, over half of all tax credit payments were incorrect. Almost two million people a year receive the wrong tax credit payment and face having money clawed back.29

Many people do not claim the tax credits to which they are entitled, either because of the complexity involved, the fear of being asked to give back overpayments, or simply because they are not aware of their entitlement. This problem is particularly severe amongst people without children – the group most affected by the abolition of the 10p tax rate. Take up of Working Tax Credit amongst people without children is only 22 per
cent.30 As well as increasing poverty, this will make it harder for the Government to use tax credits to compensate the 5.3 million families who lost out as a result of the abolition of the 10p rate.


…and as a result Labour are failing to reduce “underlying” poverty
A strategy that relies on means-tested benefits to reduce poverty is ultimately unsustainable because it weakens work incentives and does not address the underlying causes of poverty.

The result is that tax credits are masking the extent of underlying poverty in Britain today. As Alan Milburn has said, tax credits “cushion the blow of poverty, rather than help people escape from it”.31 Of course, tax credits are an essential part of a modern welfare policy – it is obviously better to increase someone’s income in work than to see them either in poverty or out of work. But something has gone badly wrong with our
economy – and our society – when more and more people every year are unable to earn enough to keep themselves and their families out of poverty.

The benefits system is having to run harder and harder simply to stand still. Figure 2 shows that, while tax credits move around one million children in working families from below the poverty line to just above it, a million more children need this support than a decade ago. This is not a cure for poverty, just masking its symptoms.

Our aim should be more ambitious than this. As well as correcting low wages and family poverty after the event, we should be building a Britain in which people are helped to fulfil their aspirations for themselves and their families, and to lift themselves out of poverty through their own efforts.

You must be logged in to see this link. - 2008-09-12 –

Now is the time for us to be really pushing Opposition Parties on what they are prepared to do for us. We also need to send clear messages to New Labour that we should not be punished and persecuted for HMRC's inability to calculate tax credit awards with due care and accountability, and that if we continue to be penalised for doing nothing wrong apart from trusting the Tax Credit Office to do the job that was entrusted to it properly, we will not be returning a New Labour government. We might then see a change in policy when the worm turns.

You don't need to be a brilliant letter writer to play your share in this. Please write to your MP and to Brown, Cameron and Clegg asking what they are prepared to do to end this outrage. Four stamps at the most. You can also use email but a hard copy may be harder to brush aside and ignore.

Still working on Brown's letter. It will be interesting to see if he chooses to reply or simply forwards it to the Tax Credit Office as though it were just an internal complaint about their 'service'...


(text colour changed)



Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.

Edited by - Ali M-W on 11/11/2008 07:04:51
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 12/11/2008 :  07:24:03  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Okay, George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor, is apparently getting back to me regarding the David Cameron letter, soi hopefully the Conservative response to our Amnesty request is on its way. Here is my offering to Gordon Brown. Again, the emphasis will be lost and the fact that on the original I have put the longer quotes in a smaller font for ease of reading, but here you have the gist. Probably about 10,000-1 that I will get an answer from the PM himself, and a few million to one that he is going to do anything other than flatly refuse, but nothing ventured, nothing gained...


Dear Gordon Brown,

With a general election coming ever closer, and your recent promise to the BBC that "I always want to do better and I will do better," I am therefore writing to you, on behalf of the national voluntary user group Tax Credit Casualties, to ask you what the Labour Party plans to do in order to help those millions of honest and compliant tax credit claimants who have unwittingly received tax credit overpayments and are now locked in torturous dispute with the unaccountable, bureaucratic and ruthless Revenue and Customs trying desperately to prove they were never at fault and deserve a full write-off? (Please see You must be logged in to see this link. and be horrified at the outrages revealed!)

Since 2005 Tax Credit Casualties across Britain have been adding their voices to those of organisations such as One Parent Families and the Child Poverty Action Group, and to the Parliamentary Ombudsman and numerous cross-party MPs who have all been calling at various times for a Tax Credit Amnesty. Many overpaid tax credit claimants are lower income families who have turned away in disgust from the Labour Party which they previously supported, due to the complacency and denial exhibited by senior Labour ministers whenever the tax credit overpayment travesty is mentioned. We are now looking for a party truly committed to social justice, which is prepared to pay more than just lip service to the principles of fairness, justice and equality – or better still, a return to ‘traditional’ Labour values which upheld the rights of ordinary working people. I hope you will be able to confirm to me your new commitment to a tax credit overpayment Amnesty in all cases where the claimant has not committed fraud nor acted dishonestly.

I know you have recently expressed dissatisfaction with the ‘"weaknesses" of unfettered capitalism’, and have insisted that your bailing out of various banks has been to protect the public from financial loss, rather than to sanction greed You must be logged in to see this link. In this article you are quoted as saying that ' financial systems must reflect the values of "fairness, stewardship and co-operation" cherished by families and communities’, and that these important values included ‘treating people fairly, acting responsibly, co-operating for the benefit of all’. I hope you will understand the irony tax credit overpayment victims feel when they hear these words, for in no way do we our see ourselves being treated fairly, with responsibility, nor in a spirit of mutual co-operation by HM Revenue and Customs.

Your predecessor Tony Blair has already apologized for the dangers of this system for many honest and compliant claimants:

Blair apologises for tax blunders.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has apologised after stinging criticism of the government's flagship tax credits. Mismanagement of the scheme, designed to benefit working parents on low incomes, had "caused hardship or distress" to some, Mr Blair conceded. One-third of claimants were overpaid and pushed into poverty when asked to repay, Citizens Advice reported. And the Parliamentary Ombudsman accused Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo of not giving MPs a clear picture. Both reports call for overpayments to be written off. In an emergency statement to MPs, Ms Primarolo said the government was already writing off overpayments which are attributable to a department error… You must be logged in to see this link.


Sadly, reports that the government was writing off all overpayments created by the system itself quickly proved false, with HMRC insisting claimants took responsibility for system-created errors so that money could be recouped regardless of both recovery and human costs – a fettering of its discretion to write off which has been condoned if not supported by our Labour government ever since.

Despite attempts to improve the system, Tax Credit Casualties is still seeing evidence that HMRC’s harsh recovery practices have barely changed, including telling claimants they cannot appeal against a recovery decision (when they can dispute); threatening court; taking premature court action using Certificates of Debt HMRC itself writes, unverified; acting as judge and jury in its own cause; and frequently hitting claimants with demands for several thousand pounds at a time. Even those with the determination to progress their cases to the Adjudicator and Ombudsman are getting rough justice, with neither ‘watchdog’ able to do much more than criticize HMRC failings and highlight the need for changes in the law; they are obliged to apply the same rules and policies as the Tax Credit Office itself. Claimants are often ground down by the stress and uncertainty of long delays in receiving proper responses to their disputes and complaints, especially when concurrently receiving a salvo of correspondence threatening court and penalty fees, with the disputes section of the TCO communicating poorly or not at all with the debt recovery section. A war of attrition is clearly being waged to bully claimants to pay up rather than endlessly await justice. Recently the Ombudsman ‘admitted her office had "taken its eye off the ball"’ and "had a bad year last year" after it emerged it took five times longer than the guidelines to process complaints’ (You must be logged in to see this link.).

I hope you will agree that whilst a properly-working tax credit system indeed delivers valuable extra money to the lower paid who need it most, a system which continues to let down swathes of the population by hitting them unexpectedly with huge tax credit overpayment demands is just as damaging to individuals as the loss of any savings through the collapse of a major bank would be to those who had managed to put money aside. A government bold enough to help savers avoid losing their investments needs to also help those without savings to avoid undeserved debt, for how can ‘fairness, stewardship and co-operation’ be applied to one sector of society and not another, equally deserving?

It may be helpful for you to consider what other Labour MPs have said on the subject of overpayments, beginning with Frank Field:

Poverty campaigners called for further fundamental reforms of the tax credit system yesterday after figures showed the Treasury overpaid almost 2 million families a total of £1.8bn…The parliamentary and health service ombudsman said families had been forced to run up debts and even live off food parcels when overpayments to them were clawed back….Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead and former welfare minister, warned: "Tax credits are clearly the bluntest of anti-poverty weapons and are the equivalent of attempting delicate keyhole surgery with a hacksaw." For the second year running, one in two tax credit payments was wrong, and the government failed to meet its target on cutting child poverty, he said… You must be logged in to see this link.

…Ex-social security minister Frank Field said it was hard to defend tax credits if £1 in £6 was "wrongly allocated". The Labour member added: "Every MP knows the horrors this chaotically-run benefit has brought to all too many families paid the wrong sum at the wrong time and sometimes in the wrong year." You must be logged in to see this link.

Jon Cruddas has openly supported an Amnesty for non-fraudulent overpayments. On 13th July 2008, In his regular Sunday Mirror column, the Labour MP for Dagenham and former Labour Party deputy leadership contender, called for all Tax Credit overpayments to be written off. The article, 'Go Easy On Tax Victims', states "It's time to wipe the slate clean on these so-called debts. Let's write them off - and make sure that the [Tax Credit] system really does do us credit."

From Alan Milburn:
Alan Milburn, the Labour former cabinet minister and election strategist, yesterday launched a critique of a central plank of the chancellor’s strategy. In a debate on last week’s Budget, Mr Milburn…told MPs that “radical” reform of taxation was needed to tackle the poverty gap. He blamed the chancellor’s tax credits system as being “largely” responsible… You must be logged in to see this link.

From UNISON Labour Link MP Ann Black:
The main concern was the complexity of claiming pension, tax and child credits, and I added the problems of low-income families where fluctuating circumstances and administrative errors could lead to overpayment, followed by deductions which took them back below the poverty line. You must be logged in to see this link.

From Lynne Jones:
I have written to the Minister for tax credits Jane Kennedy, to express my anger that outdated information is given on tax credit eligibility on the Government website You must be logged in to see this link. and to urge that this be remedied and accurate information given, as a matter of urgency… Failure to update tax credit information may well result in people who are eligible for tax credits not applying. This is shocking and unacceptable given the widespread concern over people losing out as a result of the abolition of the 10p tax rate and the low take up rate of tax credits. The Government say they are making every effort encourage people to apply for tax credits and yet some of their basic mechanisms of public communication are not up to date. You must be logged in to see this link.

And from her letter to Jane Kennedy:
I was shocked to find this had not been updated…This might lead people who are eligible not to apply…I subsequently went to the HMRC website…could only find a helpline number…When my assistant first called this she was told that due to the high volume of calls to the number the call could not be answered. When she tried again, she was put on hold for several minutes and gave up….Finally, I note that the calculator does not calculate the award for the whole tax year …so it too is useless for people wanting, for example, to check if their annual award is correct. You must be logged in to see this link.

From Michael Jabez Foster:
If tax credits can be criticised, it must surely be on the grounds that they are just too complex. The average recipient relies entirely on official calculations, and it is nigh on impossible to know whether payments are right or wrong… one simply hopes that the outcome is correct…A benefit should always have two qualities: knowledge of eligibility and knowledge whether what one receives is right or wrong. It is a simple test that tax credits, sadly, do not meet….Through my constituency casework, I have been made aware of several cases…in which an award has been terminated after failure to finalise within the permitted deadline. When that happens, the whole amount paid during the tax year becomes recoverable, even if the family’s circumstances meant that they were fully entitled to all that they received…In many cases, sums of £5,000 or £7,000…are being demanded…Sometimes it is alleged that the forms have been returned, but the Revenue denies receipt. Who knows? I do know, however, that the draconian policy in such situations causes harm…families are being asked to pay, out of no income or a reduced income, an award to which they were entitled, and are thus being plunged into poverty. That cannot be right….I am talking about people who are entitled to the payments that they receive, but who through administrative failure…are penalised in the way that I have described. To plunge deliberately such families into poverty is not just an administrative failing, but something of which we should be ashamed….I can think of no other part of the tax system that imposes penalties as draconian as the loss of one’s entire benefit, as does the tax credit system. Given its purpose, the ombudsman is quite right when she said that to deny reinstatement causes “far too harsh a penalty for the delay, works entirely against the policy objectives of the scheme and unnecessarily causes customers avoidable distress and hardship”…. I want the Government to deal with it now. They have had long enough. There is no excuse or moral or legal reason it should not happen immediately. You must be logged in to see this link.

OCT 12 - “MORE COMPASSION NEEDED WITH TAX CREDIT OVERPAYMENTS” SAYS MP Hastings and Rye MP Michael Foster has tabled a parliamentary motion calling for greater leniency to be shown to people who receive tax credit overpayments in error… You must be logged in to see this link.

And from my own MP, Sarah McCarthy-Fry’s, website:

The values Labour stands for today are those which have guided it throughout its existence.
• social justice
• strong community and strong values
• reward for hard work
• decency
• rights matched by responsibilities
You must be logged in to see this link.

Labour stands for opportunity and fairness. I want every child …to have the same opportunity to succeed…We can’t have yet another generation growing up in poverty… You must be logged in to see this link.

Here is what others have said:

Ann Abraham, the parliamentary ombudsman, said the tax credits system operated in a way that could have "unintended harsh and unfair consequences" for vulnerable people. She called on officials to consider writing off all tax credit overpayments resulting from Inland Revenue errors since the system began two years ago - a move that would relieve many thousands of families from the hardship caused by demands for wrongly paid cash to be given back. The Guardian, June 22 2005

One-third of claimants were overpaid and pushed into poverty when asked to repay, Citizens Advice reported. And the Parliamentary Ombudsman accused Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo of not giving MPs a clear picture. Both reports call for overpayments to be written off. BBC News, 22 June 2005

First Steps to Reform Tax Credits, written by CPAG’s Beth Lakhani [Child Poverty Action Group], has been sent to Ministers and follows a series of critical reports from the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and Citizens Advice on the way the tax credits system has operated. CPAG’s recommendations include: An amnesty on all overpayments up to April 2005 where fraud has not been proven. You must be logged in to see this link.

You may be surprised to hear about the different explanations HMRC gives for overpayments, ranging from ‘we strive not to make them’ or ‘disregards will protect against them’ to ‘they are an inherent part of the system which we must live with’. Such a wide range of explanations tends to suggest lies are being told by somebody. Here are examples of how HMRC has reacted to the prevalence of overpayments at different times:

This statement came from my latest letter from HMRC..

The tax credit system is designed to be flexible.so claiments' payments can be adjusted in-year if their circumstances or incomes. The aim is to pay the right amount to claiments over the year.
Overpayments are inevitable in a flexible system,as changes can happen at any time in the year. if for example, a change of circumstances reduces a familys entitlement, or if a familys income rises,there will be an overpayment at the end of the award period..
‘Robert’ – Working Families Tax Credit Forum

As another contributor asks, ‘Whatever happened to the disregard stopping a family getting an overpayment if their income rose?’

Yet a former chairman of HMRC, Sir Nicholas Montague, vehemently denied that overpayments were commonplace, insisting every attempt was made to avoid them!

Tax credit overpayments: the real truth
A letter to The Telegraph by the Inland Revenue's chairman about our coverage of tax credit overpayments has sparked criticism…The Telegraph revealed last October that thousands of tax credit claimants had been overpaid and that future payments would be reduced, sometimes to zero, until the excess had been repaid… Last week Sir Nicholas Montagu, the chairman of the Inland Revenue, wrote to The Sunday Telegraph accusing us of publishing "inaccuracies that might cause your readers unnecessary worry"… This letter has been greeted with frank disbelief by organisations that have had to deal with the misery caused by the unseemly rush to grab the money back as soon as possible. …An hour after the letter was posted on the Revenue's site, the ICA issued a statement describing Montagu's comments as misleading and inaccurate. CPAG went further, calling them "ridiculous"…Montagu wrote: "There is no question of the Inland Revenue recouping all tax credit overpayments by the end of the tax year, April 2005. We cannot finally determine underpayments and overpayments of tax credits until the end of the year." If the correct payments cannot be determined before the end of the tax year, why did the Revenue begin slashing payments to thousands of claimants months before the first anniversary of the new tax credit system? "We try to pay out the right amount of tax credits to every claimant over the course of the year so that overpayments do not build up at the end," Montagu wrote…. Chas Roy-Chowdhury, the taxation manager at the ACCA, accuses Montagu of using "spin" and "playing with words". He says that a senior official in the Revenue's collection department told him about a drive to recoup as many of the overpayments as possible by the end of this tax year - April 5….A Parliamentary early day motion calling for the clawback of tax credit overpayments to stop immediately now has the support of 82 MPs….The CPAG and Nacab both insist that the vast majority of overpayments they have witnessed are due to Revenue error… Last week a spokesman for the Inland Revenue stuck by Montagu's letter. He said: "The chairman's letter is completely factual. There is no doubt of that." You must be logged in to see this link.

I would be most interested in your thoughts on all of this, and would be – along with many of my TCC colleagues – more than happy to talk to you further about the injustices of recovering accidentally overpaid tax credits from needy families who spent this money in supporting their families with nothing other than completely good faith that their awards were correct. Please do not just send this letter on to HMRC for comment. This is a matter for government, and strong government. Members of Tax Credit Casualties, commonly alienated from the Labour Party by the way ‘their’ government has so far treated them, are looking for a Party with values worth supporting, matched with actions in support of equality, justice and fairness. It is such a shame to see the Labour Party losing its morals and its way. I hope you have the courage and integrity to address this, and ask that you will take the time to talk to us and give full consideration to this Amnesty issue and the evidence we have in support of this being not only ethical but a sound economic decision.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Myers-Ward,
A National Co-ordinator of Tax Credit Casualties.




Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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Posted - 12/11/2008 :  07:30:15  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I would really welcome support from everyone here with a Labour MP - please could you cut and paste the above letter into a document you can print off and send to your MP, asking them to urge the PM to make a proper response? You could even email them and attach this link. Letters are less easily ignored when MPs chase them, and some may feel minded to write their own 'invitations' to Brown to reconsider. I will copy the above to Sarah McCarthy-Fry. It is about time the three main parties spelled out their approach to tax credit overpayments and put their beliefs on the line.

My view is that if David Cameron were to promise an Amnesty, Gordon Brown would make a sudden announcement that he has decided to release claimants from the burden of debt as a brave economic gesture, and steal his thunder. Perhaps David Cameron can see this coming? It's a shame if neither will do the right thing for fear or the other side making political capital out of it.

Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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Posted - 12/11/2008 :  07:40:34  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
It's interesting, though, the whole politics of writing off overpayments. On an individual basis, some 'juicy' cases have been written off recently. Sometimes this silences a claimant with a powerful story to tell the Media, or a forum member here who has played quite an active role previously - as life takes over and time becomes short, and people who have put their lives on hold to fight this then start to get on with living and we get to see less of them (Alan excepted!). I do feel write-offs are given judiciously to get certain vociferous people off HMRC and the government's back. The notable exception is that they won't grant Paula a write-off as it's well known she is our leader and they will do their utmost to avoid this. There have even been references made within HMRC to her role!

It's interesting to look back at old tax credit articles in the 'dailies' and their follow-ups saying the overpayments of featured claimants have been written off.

What does this tell you? HMRC and the government don't like bad publicity!

One really effective way of getting your overpayment written off is to get your story in a National newspaper. All I ask is that you mention Tax Credit Casualties and You must be logged in to see this link. and ensure we become a household name.

Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Alan the Geordie
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Posted - 12/11/2008 :  13:21:19  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
>>please could you cut and paste the above letter into a document you can print off and send to your MP<<

Since recently moving house, my "new" MP is David Clelland (Nu-Labour).

It will be interesting to see if he's anything like as helpful as Dave Anderson (also Nu-Labour) was.

I shall be contacting him shortly - after I've finished dealing with all the crap that resulted from the death of Mum last week.

"The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible
reductions. In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed."

Adolf Hitler
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auntieh
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Posted - 12/11/2008 :  20:57:32  Show Profile Send auntieh a Private Message
Gosh Ali you have been busy. Yes I will certainly send this to my MP. She was escorting Gordon Brown round Watford today apparently and I didn't know, otherwise I would have been there with my banner! I doubt I will get a response as the MP is able to hide behind some role that she has when things get tricky!

Alan I am so sorry to hear about your Mum. Lots of love to you and your family.

You must be sorry not to be able to write to Dave any more. He will miss you I'm sure. I was almost beginning to feel I knew him personally!

Auntie

"You can dress a pig in a suit but you can't stop it grunting"
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TCC Webmaster
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Posted - 12/11/2008 :  21:13:26  Show Profile Send TCC Webmaster a Private Message
quote:
You must be sorry not to be able to write to Dave any more. He will miss you I'm sure. I was almost beginning to feel I knew him personally!


I'm certain that we'll soon feel the same about Alan's new MP, Auntieh. I'm just as sure that David Clelland MP will 'rue the day' that he ever entered politics

Sorry to hear about your Mam, Alan.

The original 'point & click' interface was a Smith & Wesson !!
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auntieh
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United Kingdom
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Posted - 12/11/2008 :  21:55:24  Show Profile Send auntieh a Private Message
Just sent to my MP. Not expecting a reply based on recent experience.

'As you are aware I am a member of Tax Credit Casualties. My own case is still not resolved and I remain of the opinion that it is unfair for HMRC to attempt to recover an alleged overpayment that I was not aware of until more than two years after the event and which was not caused by any error on my part but by failures of HMRC itself.

I have attached a letter sent to Gordon Brown in the last few days by a TCC committee member. I hope that you will join other Labour MPs in urging him to respond to this letter and with more substance than the customary curt acknowledgement that says nothing but which we have come to expect from No 10 when asked tricky questions on any subject it seems. Please bear in mind that it is in the public domain that one third of tax credit claimants are routinely overpaid and a further third are underpaid each year so this is not a minority issue affecting just a few people. There is not much to be proud of in a system that only manages to get one third of its work correct every year in my view.

I look forward to hearing from you.'

Auntie



"You can dress a pig in a suit but you can't stop it grunting"
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 13/11/2008 :  07:30:56  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Alan, I'm so sorry about your Mum. You were always there for her, I know, just like you have always been supportive to people here when the going has got tough. For all your Geordie feistiness, you are a good bloke!

Thanks, Auntie, for your support. I like the 'TCC Committee Member' - got a nice glow of pride from that. Surprised you didn't want to stand for Committee, Auntie - you would make a great Committee Member!

I've been copied in to an email exchange which includes some key political figures on various sides, so I put my ten pennarth in and asked that they meet with Paula regarding the tax credit overpayment crisis. Nice volunteering other people, isn't it?! I would quite happily come along for support, but ultimately ever tax credit meeting or consultation really needs our best person. I have always believed the main hurdles to be getting that first audience, because eloquent PJ will get it all said and will present a great case. I'll keep everyone posted.

Good letter, Auntie! Alan understandably has a lot on his mind at the moment, but I am sure that in time David Clelland will have a keen understanding of tax credits, thanks to Alan!

Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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Posted - 13/11/2008 :  07:36:48  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Had a quick look at David Clelland. He's departed from the government line a few times, it seems - but not with tax credits:

David Clelland MP, Tyne Bridge voted with the majority (No).

This division occurred at the end of a Conservative opposition day debate on the Tax Credits schemes. The motion proposed by the Conservative front bench was:

That this House commends the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Citizens Advice Bureau on their reports on Tax Credits; notes with concern their conclusions that many thousands of low income families are suffering financial hardship as a result of the serious problems with the administration of tax credits; further notes the huge cost to the taxpayer of these problems; calls on the Government to implement as soon as possible all the Ombudsman's recommendations to improve the tax credit administration; in particular calls on the Government to adopt the Ombudsman's recommendation to set up a statutory test for recovery of excess payments of tax credits consistent with the test that is currently applied to social security benefits, with the right of appeal to an independent tribunal and calls on HM Revenue and Customs to suspend all recovery of tax credit overpayments until this reform has been completed; and calls on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain the Government's failure to provide low income families with the service they deserve; and requests that he conduct a fundamental review of the structure and administration of tax credits, as recommended by the Ombudsman.

The Government front bench moved an amendment to replace the text of the motion so that it would read:

That this House supports the Government's strategy to make work pay and provide financial support to families through tax credits; welcomes the fact that over 6 million families and 10.5 million children are benefiting from tax credits, with first year take-up of around 80 per cent., compared to just 57 per cent. for the Family Credit system inherited by the Government; recognises that far more families than ever before are benefiting from help with childcare costs; notes that tax credits are central to the Government's goal of abolishing child poverty; further notes that tax credits have helped ensure there are 1.5 million fewer children in poverty and have helped 275,000 lone parents into work; recognises the need to balance the demands for a simple system with the need for a system that responds to people's changing circumstances, giving most help to families when they need it most; acknowledges the IT and administrative problems that accompanied the early stages of implementation; and welcomes the measures announced by the Government for improving the administration of the system.

The question put before the House was whether the original wording should be retained. Therefore those voting Aye were indicating their support for the original motion and their disagreement to the amendment. Those voting No were opposing the original wording although not necessarily agreeing with the amendment.


On this issue, David Clelland voted with his government. But at that stage, he hadn't met Alan!!!


Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 13/11/2008 :  07:39:53  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Aha! But David Clelland signed an EDM regretting that more pensioners didn't take up Pension Credit, so it might be worth linking the low take-up of Pension and Tax Credits to their general fallability, at some point, Alan...

EDM 2381 PENSION CREDIT29.10.2008


Hoyle, Lindsay
That this House notes with concern the fact that there are up to 1.8 million pensioners who are eligible, but do not receive, pension credit, resulting in £1.3 billion in pension credit going unclaimed; recognises that this represents a take-up rate of between 59 per cent. and 67 per cent., below the Government's stated target of 73 per cent; urges the Government to address the reasons why some pensioners do not claim their entitlement, such as being unaware of the rules, a belief that they are ineligible to claim, an unwillingness to disclose personal information and a complicated and off-putting claiming process; and calls on the Government to work with pensioner groups and other voluntary bodies to encourage a greater take-up of pension credit so that pensioners receive the money to which they are entitled.


Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 13/11/2008 :  07:44:48  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
It just gets better! Alan, you are onto a winner:

EDM 2148 TAX CREDIT OVERPAYMENTS06.10.2008


Foster, Michael Jabez
That this House believes that some families are experiencing excessive hardship through being required to repay tax credits after failing to finalise their award; and considers that the Government should review the statutory recovery of such overpayments and institute an appeals process so that where entitlement for the tax year can be shown, even at a later date, only recovery of a justifiable amount of overpayment should be made.

Labour Party
Anderson, David
Anderson, Janet
Atkins, Charlotte
Begg, Anne
Buck, Karen
Burgon, Colin
Caton, Martin
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Katy
Clelland, David
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Ann
Curtis-Thomas, Claire
Dean, Janet
Devine, Jim
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Frank
Drew, David
Ellman, Louise
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Michael Jabez
Godsiff, Roger
Hamilton, David
Havard, Dai
Heyes, David
Hoyle, Lindsay
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Glenda
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Martyn
Keeble, Sally
Keen, Alan
Laxton, Bob
Mallaber, Judy
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, Ian
McDonnell, John
Meale, Alan
Mitchell, Austin
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
O'Hara, Edward
Palmer, Nick
Pope, Greg
Prentice, Gordon
Purchase, Ken
Reed, Andy
Riordan, Linda
Rooney, Terry
Salter, Martin
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Dennis
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Phyllis
Stoate, Howard
Stringer, Graham
Taylor, David
Touhig, Don
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Desmond
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Rudi
Walley, Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Williams, Betty
Wood, Mike
Wright, Anthony D
Wyatt, Derek

This is a Labour motion so is basically less far-reaching than some, but still sets limits on recovery, and David Clelland has signed it, along with Dave Anderson, so early signs are good...

When the time comes, and you are ready, Alan (do give yourself time to grieve but also time for yourself), I think you may find a fairly receptive audience.

Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 13/11/2008 :  07:45:23  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I didn't post the link... You must be logged in to see this link.

Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 13/11/2008 :  07:53:16  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I don't think David Clelland is a crowd pleaser, according to someone who appears to be his constituent, regarding the 42 day detention issue:

stephen said...
If the Labour party want to keep power then they must prove that they represent all parts of society. At the moment Labour are failing those that are working and are just above the benefit threshold. These people don't receive tax credits or benefits, don't get help with fuel poverty and most likely take very little from the state

Wasn't that the point of the 10% tax farce? To take money from the very porest and give it to just the sort of people you describe? It didn't work out too well. I completely agree with you that those just about the benefit threshold are having a hard time but as it has set itself against raising tax on the richest (raising it on the poorest is OK, apparently) Labour has little scope for doing anything for them. More f*ckwitted authoritarian laws won't put food on the table and will just further alienate social liberals. I know that Labour has absolutely no interest in currying our favour, as David Clelland MP pointed out so trenchantly (You must be logged in to see this link.) but it may find that it regrets our lost votes.

12:17 PM, August 29, 2008

You must be logged in to see this link.

Lol, The link within this forum post is interesting - a man who tells it VERY straight! I can see some lively correspondence going between wor Alan and David when the time comes...



Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 13/11/2008 :  07:54:56  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
"I do not want your vote so you can stick it where it best pleases you." Ho hum, maybe even where the sun don't shine?

You must be logged in to see this link.)

Get this fella on our side and we will know it!



Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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Ali M-W
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Posted - 13/11/2008 :  08:04:01  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Labour's inconsistent rebels:

A quick glance suggests that of today's tax rebels, only Eric Illsley, David Clelland, Frank Cook and Paul Flynn didn't vote for the Budget package they now find so malign.
You must be logged in to see this link.

Another EDM signed by David Clelland:

EDM 545 RECOVERABILITY OF OVERPAID TAX CREDITS19.12.2006


Morgan, Julie
That this House, whilst welcoming the capacity of the tax credits system to respond swiftly to the changed circumstances of claimants, thereby offering timely extra financial assistance in many cases, recognises that such flexibility increases the potential for overpayments; and, in the light of the decision on 14th November of the European Court of Human Rights in Tsfayo v United Kingdom on the adequacy of judicial review as a remedy, calls upon the Government to legislate without delay for a right of appeal to the Independent Appeal Tribunal on whether any such overpayment is recoverable by HM Revenue and Customs, in compliance with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

You must be logged in to see this link.


It Shouldn't Happen to an MP
Iain Dale 8:05 AM

There's an old saying in Parliament: never write something to a constituent you wouldn't want to see on the front page of your local newspaper. The Sun reports this morning that after receiving an abusive letter from a constituent, Labour MP David Clelland sent back a reply telling his constituent to "stick your vote where it best pleases you". The constituent says he is "very offended".

Most MPs would have sent a reply back full of the usual platitudes and ignoring the abuse in the original letter. Good for David Clelland for standing up for himself.

You must be logged in to see this link.

Okay, I think you'll have the picture now, Alan. I am pretty darned sure you can win him over for us in dure course.



Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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n/a
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2 Posts

Posted - 15/11/2008 :  22:05:15  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
I have been fighting the HMRC aginst repayment of credits from 2003-2005 where the error has been proved to be wholly their fault and they have always taken the stance that I have to repay as I did not advise them that they had made an error ( something that I was not aware of at the time) but with the full support of my local Labour MP, Julie Morgan,Cardiff North I am still fighting.She led a parliamentry motion in 2006 for an Amnesty on overpayments and had the support of over 65 Labour MPs so they are out there.The situation is so bad that she has a full time volunteer working solely on Tax Credit cases in our area. I have advised as many people as possible that when they start to canvas for the Elections the question of Tax Credits Amnesty is high on the agenda,I also intend to leaflet Public places like libraries,Doctors,Dentist surgeries when the time comes. Lets show some PEOPLE POWER.
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Ali M-W
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Posted - 17/11/2008 :  11:02:14  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks, Frazzled. Some people think their own efforts won't make a difference, but they do. MPs listen to their constituents in may cases and do react to injustices their constituents highlight. Have you seen this article? Gordon Brown's tax-cut Christmas present You must be logged in to see this link. Letters to Brown and his MPs urging an Amnesty for tax credit overpayments may help us secure one. What is there to lose but a few minutes of our time and a stamp? Thanks for doing your bit, Frazzled!

Morpheus: They are the gatekeepers, they are guarding all the doors and holding all the keys.
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