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6 Posts

Posted - 22/08/2008 :  18:00:57  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Hi
I am in a state of shock and just wanted to see if anyone knows how I should go about dealing with this.

Since 2006-2007 I have been claiming tax credits as a single mother to my two children, aged 10 and 6. I work full time as an Administrator and in my spare time I am studying to be an accountant.

My claim was recently investigated because of a mistake with the income declared on my P60. In the course of the investigation I declared that I have a joint tenancy with a single man (B) since 2006-7. B and I have an unusual relationship in that he is not the father of my children and has no relationship with them, we don't have any joint finances, bank accounts etc, we buy our own food, clothes and everything else and we share the utility bills out fairly based on use. I truthfully told the investigator that Ben and myself do have a sexual relationship and that we are very close but that other than that there is no financial or other connection. Neither of us give each other money, and if either of us were in need of money we would never even borrow it from each other.

I never thought to make a joint claim because I don't receive any financial or emotional support from B, we merely have a sexual relationship. In my previous relationship I declared it as joint because that was how we lived, but in this case I deal with everything myself and he is merely someone else living in the house.

I have now been told that I've been overpaid a total of 20,000 in tax credits as the claim should have been a joint one. This is the total amount I have received in credits over the last three years. They are forcing us to only make a joint claim in the future and have stopped my sole claim immediately.

I am confused because if we were supposed to make a joint claim, will they not backdate this? B is on a very low income (another reason they didn't believe we weren't supporting each other) so we should surely have been entitled to something if we had a joint claim. Our joint income would probably have been only around 24,000 per year.

There is no way I can afford to repay this amount and will have to stop my studies and probably move house, maybe even declare bankruptcy.

I don't know whether we should appeal, as I feel very strongly that I have been unfairly treated in this situation. I am, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same as a single parent except that I have sex with my best friend, who lives in the same house as me. We have a separate living room and he has no contact with my children. We don't holiday together or spend weekends together. We don't even eat together!

Just wondered if anyone knows if it is worth appealing. Also, can we make a joint claim going forward if we are in this situation?

I can barely afford to pay 10 a month back to them and am so scared about what will happen to myself and my children.

The investigator said at the interview that based on all the evidence he thought it was 50/50 whether or not we were a couple, but in the letters he has sounded very definite that i have behaved negligently.

Any help would be appreciated as I feel like I'm drowing and don't know what to do.

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TCC Webmaster
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Virgin Islands (United Kingdom)
148 Posts

Posted - 22/08/2008 :  18:54:54  Show Profile Send TCC Webmaster a Private Message
Hiya Sadie3.

The more I read your post, the more angry I become. I'm not qualified to give you absolute advice on this - so, whatever I say, please wait for more qualified advice from other forum members!

If I'm correct in what I've understood from your post, you share nothing with B - you have separate living areas, separate sleeping areas and no joint finances. Effectively, you live in the same house, but that is it!

Although Britain is fast becoming a police state, I'm absolutely certain that we are still allowed to have sex with anyone we want, as long as they are over the age of consent.

If you bought home a different person every evening, that would be your right. Can you imagine HMRC telling you that you had to put in 365 joint claims for the year - each lasting just 1 day !!

Basically, HMRC are calling you a liar. I wouldn't stand for that, if it were me. What bloody right do they have?

Others will be along to give you advice - but mine would be to write them a stinking letter telling them that you both lived in separate parts of the house, and that you're perfectly entitled to have sex with anyone you choose, at any time, as often as you like.

They are basically saying that, if you have a lodger, you have a relationship.

Get your MP involved. Write to the press. HMRC hate bad publicity.

I wonder what HMRC would do if you went to a Solicitor and swore an affidavit to the effect that you did not have a relationship with B.

Fight it, with everything you've got! Let's face it, if you're considering bankruptcy, then you have nothing to lose.

How dare they call someone, who has been honest enough to reveal that they have a casual sexual relationship, a liar.

Fight. Fight. Fight.



The original 'point & click' interface was a Smith & Wesson !!
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n/a
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6 Posts

Posted - 22/08/2008 :  19:10:53  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message

Thanks for your reply....

It's difficult because B is clearly more than a lodger in that we do love each other and we do share a bed. So we do have a relationship. But in my opinion we are not connected in the way a married couple are because we do not share finances or any of our property. Nothing is owned together, everything is either mine or his. And he does have a seperate room which he spends his time in and my children and I use the other living room. Yes, we go out together in the evenings and friends think of us as a couple. But I do not have somebody to rely on for money or support as someone in a 'married' couple does.

I know it is a grey area, and it is a 'modern' relationship - this kind of relationship wasn't common in my parents time for example. And I don't think HMRC are ready to accept this as a valid arrangement.

I am going to fight I think, but it is hard because they think we are a couple because we are close and share a bed. But in my opinion there is a lot more to a real couple than this.

The letter they have sent has really really annoyed me, because they've just quoted this amount of 20,000 and then not given me any advice on whether to claim now as joint, whether i can backdate, how i can pay it back etc.

Anyway, I will consider all my options before acting. I think I should get a solicitor because it is such an grey area.




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n/a
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56 Posts

Posted - 23/08/2008 :  08:44:28  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Hi Sadie

Definitely get your MP involved straight away, and if you can bear to do it, get the press involved (Local press are a good place to start). I can understand that you might not want your personal relationship spalshed over the local rag but I recently had some press coverage and I asked the reporter to keep us anonymous, which she did.

My case was resolved quickly, after three months, and this was mostly due to the direct involvement of our MP, and our "over-payment" was for 12,500 so I understand your fear. Definitely definitely fight, as has been said before, HMRC cannot have control over your personal life.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 23/08/2008 :  14:27:19  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
Hello Sadie and Welcome!

The advice you've been given so far is sound. TCC Webmaster is a very level-headed person & Willow is one of our most recent successes.

Both of them are recommending that you use your MP (who works for YOU don't forget!!)and the media - both of these means have been tried & tested with satisfaction.

As for involving your solicitor; this would be fine to get a sworn affidavit to the effect that you did not have a relationship with B, but if you're thinking of using the solicitor against HMRC you may have a problem as most solicitors are familiar with the law as most of us know it, but HMRC use Tax Law which is an entirely different kettle of horses. Personally, I believe that this is something that HMRC make-up as they go along to suit their needs, but I'm just a cynical old Geordie who happens to have won his case!

So, what to do?

Well I think you should see your solicitor and perhaps get that affidavit to the effect that you did not have a relationship with B. and you definitely should involve your MP. The media is an excellent tool and I really believe that you should use them - they will keep you anonymous if you tell them to.

20,000 is an amount well worth fighting over!!


"Dave Anderson (Labour) MP for Blaydon for Prime Minister!!"
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PJD
Admin



United Kingdom
281 Posts

Posted - 24/08/2008 :  17:51:02  Show Profile Send PJD a Private Message
while it is always problematic for HMRC to get their heads round any family arrangement that isn't 1 wife, 1 husband and 2.4 kids they do have some definitions on what is considered Living Together As Husband And Wife (LTAHAW) which can be seen here You must be logged in to see this link.

the interesting thing to note is that the burden of proof is on them now, the previous pages to the link above go into a bit more detail about that. including the fact they have to have given you a decision into their judgement that you are LTAHAW and how they came to that conclusion (i/e how you fit their definitions) and they should have done this before making any alterations to the status of your claim. on those grounds i would suggest you use the Dispute route to raise this.

also, if they do refuse to move from their position that you are LTAHAW, you should demand a Notional Entitlement Assessment, on the grounds of 'genuine confusion', this is where they work out what you should have been paid if you had received a joint claim instead of a single, and deduct it from what they are claiming is overpaid. this can substantially reduce and even wipe out the overpayment.

get your MP to raise these points too.
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n/a
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6 Posts

Posted - 25/08/2008 :  23:12:59  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Thanks everyone for your advice. I'm going to go the the CAB tomorrow and have a chat with them. I'll report back on how it goes.... I cannot afford to just let this go so I'm going to have to fight, but whether or not I have a chance I just don't know. I feel sorry for my children because they have already been through one relationship breakdown and this is why I have kept the relationship I have now so low key and not allowed him to become involved in my life too much. But this has really backfired on me it seems!
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n/a
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6 Posts

Posted - 02/09/2008 :  10:45:09  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Hi again...

I visited the CAB but spoke a somewhat unsympathetic older gentleman who said 'well obviously if you have sex with someone then you are a couple'.... and looked at me as if I was incredibly immoral!! But they did refer me to a solicitor. She was quite helpful (in my free half hour's advice) and said to definitely appeal, but to make sure you bring something new to the appeal, or they'll just make the same decision again.

I think we are going to compare a huge dossier of exactly what our lives are like, down to the minutae, such as we have separate toothpaste.... towels... food storage area etc. And that I have a separate bedroom which I sleep in a few nights a week and in which my clothes are stored. Who knows what it will achieve but I have to do something as 20,000 is a huge amount and it really doesn't seem fair.


Does anyone else have any experience of a similar claim, or have any advice as to what we should feature in our appeal?

Thanks again
x
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missfroy2
Mod



298 Posts

Posted - 02/09/2008 :  10:55:15  Show Profile Send missfroy2 a Private Message
Hi

This is a difficult situation, as the LTAHW test is not clear cut. As you say, in today's modern society there are many different types of relationships that do not necessarily fit with traditional definitions.

However, I would say that you should not go down the dispute route with this as suggested above.

This is an entitlement issue and as such you need to put in an appeal against the decision which ended your entitlement as a single person.

HMRC will look at the appeal, but ultimately it will go to the social security tribunal which is independent of HMRC. That is why having an appealable issue is better than a dispute in this regard.

However, there are appeal time limits so I urge you to do this immediately. HMRC will generally rely on social security law for this test, so that might be a good place to start.

There are other advice agencies out there, sorry to hear that CAB were unsympathetic. If you contact one of them I am sure you will get some help.

MF2



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samthe
Mod



341 Posts

Posted - 08/09/2008 :  11:41:16  Show Profile Send samthe a Private Message
PJD referred to Notional Entitlement Assessment - sometimes known as offsetting - i.e. they offset against the "overpayment" the amount you would have been entitled to had you made a correct (in their eyes) claim. More info. is here:

You must be logged in to see this link. & in other pages that one links to. They are very restrictive (absurdly so in my opinion) about the cases where they will grant offsetting, and now only do so where it was a "genuine error" when the claim started. Nonetheless, this could help you if your appeal fails, although your entitlement (taking your "partner's" income into account) would have been less than you received.

I agree with Missfroy - you need to appeal. But they are apparently very reluctant to send appeals to the independent Tribunal service, so you may have to push for this to be done. Ultimately, they cannot refuse to do it.

As Missfroy says, LTHAW is not a clearcut issue. You seem to have several aspects supporting your view (separate finances, eating, living rooms, bedroom - although not always used) but not others (sex, going out and being seen as friends to be a couple)& any decision is going to be on the "balance of probabilities". It might help if you were able to find tribunal commissioners decisions supporting your view, but you probably need expert help to do that (from CAB or another welfare benefits advice service).

If you want to get tax credits at present you will have to claim as a "couple". It would be best to send a letter with your claim form making it totally clear that you are doing so under protest because of their decision, that you do not regard yourself as a couple (I assume your "partner" is of the same view as you on this) and you are only claiming as a couple because you cannot get any TCs any other way until your appeal is resolved. Keep a copy of your letter (& the claim form), staple it to the claim form & send it recorded delivery.

CAB advisers should be non-judgemental, & you should not have been left with the impression you had. If the adviser you saw simply concluded you must be a couple because of the sexual relationship that is wrong. You could ring & ask to speak to the manager to complain about this. You could also ask to see someone else more experienced in these matters to get fuller advice. They may be able to help you on the issue of Tribunal Commissioners decisions through reference to their specialist support unit or in some other way.
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samthe
Mod



341 Posts

Posted - 08/09/2008 :  17:40:59  Show Profile Send samthe a Private Message
Since posting the above I have found this link:

You must be logged in to see this link.

You may find it useful to look at it, and at the pages which it leads you to. There are a lot of indicators there to the sorts of things they are (or should be) looking for to make a decision on whether you are LTAHAW. This could help you in compiling the dossier you mention.

You could also go here:

You must be logged in to see this link.

where there is a statement that a sexual relationship in isolation does not prove LTAHAW. However, that manual is about WFTC, which was abolished in 2003 so they might try to argue it is no longer relevant.

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n/a
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6 Posts

Posted - 24/03/2009 :  11:31:12  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Hi All
Finally, seven months after this began, I have had a breakthrough in my case.

About a month ago HMRC decided not to charge me anything for the year 06-07 but said I would still owe them for 07-08 and 08-09 (a total of 11,500) IF I dropped the appeal completely. This smacked of bargaining to me so I wrote a strongly worded letter informing them that I believed I was in the right and would therefore continue my appeal.

Yesterday, I had a home visit at which they informed me that due to a 'technicality' there investigation was 'illegal' - apparently they had already opened an enquiry on me in 06-07 and the current enquiry is therefore invalid. So in order to bring the whole thing to a close they offered me the following two options:

a) they will cancel their charge to me for 07-08 (8500) and also not go into a childcare discrepancy for that year (not my fault) which they would otherwise be claiming back 1500 on. In return I will withdraw my appeal immediately. I must though, stay on a joint claim with my partner rather than trying to get the sole claim. In theory this makes me 300 per month worse off but as luck would have it I have negotiated a payrise and promotion with my work which would cover this amount from April onwards and probably make us ineligible for tax credits anyway as from April my 'partner' is also earning significantly more. They didn't mention the 3000 I would owe them for 08-09 as this doesn't show on the system yet as the year hasn't ended.

b) I go back to my sole claim and claim solely going forwards. This means I will be better off each month (but my forthcoming payrise may well wipe this out entirely). However, they cannot clear my childcare charge in that case, and there is no guarantee they won't immediately investigate me again, and this time the investigation WOULD be legal so I'd probably end up going to an appeal which I can't guarantee I would win.

I am currently thinking that I will go for option a in order to end the thing and avoid future problems (though I still believe I am in the right). However, I think I will ask them to remove the 3000 debt to compensate me for the stress and worry their 'illegal' investigation has caused and for the fact that I will receive less each month going forward than I am entitled to.

They negated to give me a third option - to continue with the appeal! I asked whether that was still possible and they basically said 'well we don't really want to do that'.... which I have taken to mean that they really need me to drop it. Part of me would love to push my right to appeal just to tick them off but I don't have the fight left in me and really just want everything to be sorted.

I recorded the full interview but unfortunately the Dictaphone went wrong and we all sound like we've been at the helium. haha.

I'm relieved that this 'technicality' (i.e. their incompetence) appears to have helped me out but I just want to check that I'm taking the right course here. If I do withdraw my appeal can I make them promise not to merely re-open the investigation against me? Does anyone have any advice? I'd be grateful for any opinions.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 24/03/2009 :  13:50:58  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
I think I'd take the whole thing to the media to show the world just what sort of crooks we're trying to deal with.

Just my view of course.

"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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TCC Webmaster
Admin



Virgin Islands (United Kingdom)
148 Posts

Posted - 24/03/2009 :  14:18:38  Show Profile Send TCC Webmaster a Private Message
Well said, Alan!

Sadie3 - something doesn't smell right here! It isn't like HMRC to suddenly start bargaining - they do nothing that isn't to their advantage. And they have been known to lie, cheat and use the most underhand tricks ever!

It may well be that the best thing is for you to accept one of their offers, but I've e-mailed Paula and asked her to take a look at your post.

My advice would be not to do anything until Paula's responded.



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missfroy2
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298 Posts

Posted - 24/03/2009 :  16:12:05  Show Profile Send missfroy2 a Private Message
You absolutely have a legal right to continue with the appeal. HMRC do try and settle appeals before they go to tribnunal but it shoudln't be bargaining like this.

Please, please get some professional advice and don't try and handle this alone.

Taking the wrong decision or accepting something without getting it thoroughly checked out could lead to future problems. Tax credit entitlement is based on legislation and therefore you need someone to check if the status of the enquiries, your claims, childcare etc...

Contact You must be logged in to see this link. - and ask them for help.

MF2
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n/a
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6 Posts

Posted - 24/03/2009 :  17:05:36  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Thank you all. I will contact You must be logged in to see this link. by phone and talk them through it.

It's hard to believe that they would actually try to trick you but so many people have had problems with them that I guess you can't be too careful.

I cannot wait until a time when I don't have to take their money.

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samthe
Mod



341 Posts

Posted - 24/03/2009 :  18:36:51  Show Profile Send samthe a Private Message
1. It seems to me that them saying they don't really want to go to appeal could be an indicator that they expect to lose if it goes there. However, you cannot guarantee this & I quite see why you would want to end it now.

2. If you do decide to accept one of their options then a) would appear to be the only reasonable one. But before accepting you must get it confirmed in writing that the case is totally closed, that it will not be re-opened in the future and that they will not attempt to recover the 3000 for 08-09. Then keep their letter very safely in case they do try anything on later.
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PJD
Admin



United Kingdom
281 Posts

Posted - 29/03/2009 :  00:59:07  Show Profile Send PJD a Private Message
hiya

I'll bow to Miss froy and Samthe experience on this one and agree that you shouldn't accept anything until you have had some thorough advice here.

but it smacks on tricky all the way through. disgusting. i wouldn't risk harming any agreement by speaking out to the press just yet, get some in depth tax advice first, accept on of the options and them if your up for it we could help you publicize your case then, cos this is well out of order. the original issue and the bargaining while hiding have their hand.

hope Tax Aid were helpful. if not email me on Paula@TaxCC.org and I'll put you in touch with someone who might be able to help in your particular case.

cheers
Paula
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