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281 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  01:06:37  Show Profile Send PJD a Private Message
lol. they are the best ! seriously, i have filtered out the even scarey ones. it would seem talking tax law all day turned us all into gurning experts
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Ali M-W

3558 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  01:39:10  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I fear that alas I am even harder on the eyes than on the ears.
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Alan the Geordie

3032 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  01:45:27  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
Ah thowt ye lucked reet Bonny wor Ali
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Ali M-W

3558 Posts

Posted - 13/06/2007 :  06:10:05  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
That's kind, but judging by those photos I think I need to be flattened rather than flattered - that's a scary profile by anyone's standards. But talking of profile, the thing that's been on my mind since getting back from London, and a source of much excitement for me (I don't get out much) is that TCC's profile has really been raised. I really feel HMRC are taking us seriously and listening for the first time, and finding they can actually learn from US, the only group run wholly by and for 'service' users, and they want to work with us! I think is quite an achievement and a cause for optimism for everyone, and that we can be proud of ourselves as a group, because we have all played a really important part! Politicians are taking us in earnest, too, and we're steadily building cross-party support and commanding respect! Not bad for a bunch of amateurs doing this in our 'spare' time... The New Statesman Nomination (well done Lisa)is another feather in our cap, and our status and credibility is growing! At the moment we may be 'poor as church mice' as individuals and as a campaigning organisation, but that will change with the charitable status we're awaiting, and pledges (we have people waiting to donate, and that includes Casualties but I would stress within our means). I should like to thank Penny Mordaunt and Alistair Thompson for 'sherpering' us through an unfamiliar city and ensuring we kept to a very tight schedule, and for giving us the sustenance/refreshments we could squeeze in on-the-hop in what was a very full schedule (indigestion special!) A hectic day which felt very productive, and a great start to the Campaign, as well as enjoyable in a masochistic sort of way!

We may not have commanded Fleet Street journalistic attention (yet), but we've made significant headway, and we have enough material (developments from throughout the day, which need to be better ordered and done better justice to than what we've thrown onto the forum in our hyperactive, bleary-eyed state), and photographs (omigod)to get a Press Release/update out locally and Nationally. Interested noises have been made, and expect a busy(er) traffic through this forum very soon!
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Ali M-W

3558 Posts

Posted - 08/07/2007 :  10:40:28  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Still waiting for an HMRC response... but we at least haven't forgotten and are plugging away. Guess that HMRC report (when it finally materialises) which was due to go to Dawn Primarolo will now go to Tessa Jowell?
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Ali M-W

3558 Posts

Posted - 18/07/2007 :  22:28:02  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Just to let you know that I have emailed our HMRC contact to ask when we might expect some feedback from our London (HMRC) visit. I got back an acknowledgement saying that the information takes time to collate. I asked them to prioritise our complaint regarding one of the seven HMRC officials who spent his time sneering and pulling juvenile faces at us, in disdain, and Sarah's excellent letter about those in double jeopardy because, as well as being tax credit casualties, their homes have been flooded and their possessions (and tax credit paperwork) swept away or ruined. I also asked when we might expect their report, and if it would now go to Jane Kennedy, who has taken over from Dawn Primarolo. I will keep you updated on any news.
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Ali M-W

3558 Posts

Posted - 27/07/2007 :  07:19:38  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Just to let everyone know that I rang Tracy Gale, who heads up the Tax Credit Policy Team at HMRC Parliament Square yesterday, and whilst she'd just gone into a meeting, she did email me afterwards saying she'd write to me in 'two working days' in answer to our questions.

So I asked another - if the TCC could visit the Adjudicator's Office, the offer having previously been extended to members of the Tax Credit Consultation Group (I'd asked previously to meet the Adjudicator, but she'd declined).

When this letter arrives, I'll let you know of any progress.

We've raised with them the issue of flood damage jeopardising the successful outcome of cases and the Maternity Leave Trap, and it would be interesting to hear their response.

The HMRC post-meeting report which Dawn Primarolo was so eagerly waiting for (well, that got us off HER back, didn't it?) is now set to go to Jane Kennedy.

So no harm in our writing to Jane Kennedy, Financial Secretary, in advance to encourage her to give this report her full attention when it arrives, is there?

Thanks, all!
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Ali M-W

3558 Posts

Posted - 17/08/2007 :  09:03:23  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
A quick update:

We did get a reply from HMRC, and I'll attempt to post it here:

Dear Alison,

Thank you for your recent e-mails from the Tax Credit Casualties. I am sorry that I have been unable to respond fully until now. I hope the following details address your outstanding queries.

How wide a discretion does HMRC have?

Our right to apply discretion as to the recovery of tax credit overpayments is outlined in the Tax Credits Act. As discussed at our meeting, exercise of HMRC’s discretion can mean:

1) Fully, or partially, writing off overpayments under the policies set out in our Code of Practice 26 – That is, not seeking to recover overpayments that were caused by our mistake and where the claimant could reasonably have believed that their payments were right.
2) Fully, or partially, writing off overpayments where it would cause claimants financial hardship to repay them.

In the material we sent to you in advance of the meeting we explained that staff are given guidance as to when they should advise an overpayment be written off under CoP26. This guidance is based on the principles of CoP26 in that, we will not seek to recover a tax credit overpayment where it was caused by an error by us and the claimant could reasonably have believed that their payments were right.

This guidance is available in the public domain on our website at You must be logged in to see this link.

Any decision to write off all tax credit overpayments, in the manner of an amnesty as your group suggests, would not be a decision for us to make under our discretion but for Ministers who must consider both the effect on all tax credit claimants – including those who have already agreed to repay their overpayments – and on the general taxpayer.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual/Transgender (LGBT) Training

As discussed at our meeting, the Department takes diversity and equality– of all forms, not just LGBT – and the attitudes of our staff very seriously. We expect all our staff to act with the utmost professionalism at all time and to put the experiences of customers first.

More information about our policies can be found in the Diversity and Equality area of our website at You must be logged in to see this link.

Status of backlog for complaints, appeals and disputes

It is very hard to give a figure for what you are asking since the levels of stock on hand change constantly. However, we maintain very strong targets for responding to claimant complaints, disputes and appeals and the department aims to respond to all forms of correspondence as soon as possible. I do not recognise a picture of backlogs in these areas. However, as I am sure you will understand, depending on the exact circumstances of a case it can take us less or more time than average to prepare a full response.

Lost call records

We consider each dispute against recovery of an overpayment on a case by case basis. On the rare occasions that a call record cannot be accessed this will be taken into account when determining whether the claimant could reasonably have believed they were receiving the correct amount.

Customer service

We are always aiming to improve our customer service and we will always aim to ensure that all the correct details are included in any correspondence. Unfortunately, there will always be cases of human error and if this causes any distress to customers the department will apologise. I hope that we answered any concerns you had about the handling of your particular award at our meeting.

Reasonable belief test – Literacy, numeracy and language difficulties

Our Tax Credit Office has always considered possible literacy, numeracy or language difficulties of the claimant as part of the reasonable belief test.

However, we also expect claimants, if they do not understand any of the information we send them, to ask for help, either by asking someone to act on their behalf as an appointee or advisor or by contacting us through the Tax Credit Helpline.

Subject Access Requests (SAR)

I am sorry if you feel that following SAR requests you have not received all the information that you believe is held. If you, or any of your colleagues, feel that information is missing then you should contact the Tax Credit Office.
Accountability to the public
As with all government bodies we are accountable to the public through their representatives in parliament. This will include scrutiny by bodies such as the Treasury Select or Public Accounts Committees.
If there is a citizen who has suffered loss as a consequence of administrative action and does not have any legal cause of action they may pursue a complaint through the Parliamentary Ombudsman (following a referral by a Member of Parliament) or, in the case of the Department, the Adjudicator’s Office, if he or she is not satisfied with the department’s offer of an ex gratia compensatory payment
More information, including published reports, can be obtained from these bodies’ websites, the addresses of which are listed below:
Revenue Adjudicator - You must be logged in to see this link.
Parliamentary Ombudsman - You must be logged in to see this link.
National Audit Office - You must be logged in to see this link.
Treasury Select Committee - You must be logged in to see this link.
Public Accounts Committee - You must be logged in to see this link.
Objectivity of disputes
All disputes against recovery of a tax credit overpayment are considered on a case by case basis so that we can take into account the individual claimant’s circumstances. Claimants can complain if they disagree with the decision or matters are not resolved to their satisfaction. Ultimately our handling of their case can reviewed by the Adjudicator or through the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Legal proceedings
As I explained in the material we prepared at your request prior to the meeting, we will only instigate legal proceedings to enforce recovery of an overpayment as a last resort. Before any court action is taken we make numerous attempts to contact the claimant, including at least one personal visit, in order to discuss the situation and make arrangements to pay.
At any point during this process the claimant may dispute the recovery of their overpayment, appeal against any entitlement or penalty decision on their tax credit award or, if they have exhausted our complaints procedure, ask the Adjudicator or, through their MP, the Parliamentary Ombudsman to investigate their case.
You ask for assurance that premature court action is no longer taken and I can assure you that premature court action was never taken and so continues not to be taken. Where court action has been initiated it is because the claimant has made no contact with us or refused to repay an overpayment.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of the claimant
We investigate every dispute on a case by case basis and the guidance I mentioned above helps aid staff to place themselves in the shoes of the claimant, they are advised to consider what the claimant can and cannot have understood as well as any exceptional circumstances that may have affected that individual claimant.
Court action – judgements of debt
I have not got this information to hand. I am investigating whether it is available in the format requested.. When I have an answer I will write to you directly.
Claimants understanding their awards
You have asked should claimants reasonably have known when we failed to update their information when asked or when we fail to correct a mistake when advised by claimants. It depends very much on the circumstances of the case. Clearly, if someone rings up correcting information then it is fair, initial assumption that they think their award is incorrect in some way. COP 26 currently contains a provision, that if we wrongly tell a claimant that their award is correct, even though they have questioned it, we will accept that as passing the reasonable belief test. Informed by discussion with the Adjudicator and the Ombudsman, Ministers had already informed the Treasury Select Committee that they have asked us to take steps to clarify the nature of the test and set out more clearly the responsibilities of the claimant and that we plan to consult on a revised COP 26 in due course. We will publish our proposals on our website and you will be welcome to comment then.
I should add that where a claimant’s award has been disrupted because of poor service by us then the department will apologise or may offer to make a compensatory payment.
Human Rights guidance
I believe that I forwarded the information we hold on Human Rights guidance to you before the meeting. I have asked colleagues to investigate whether they can find any further guidance and if they are able to I will send this to you directly.
Pause before overpayment recovery
Ministers have already informed the Treasury Select Committee, that we could not introduce a pause before recovery of overpayments in the short or medium term.
Since this issue was raised by the Ombudsman in 2005, we have introduced a number of measures that protect claimants from any financial hardship that could result from the recovery of a tax credit overpayment. We:
• Have restricted the rate of recovery of overpayments from on-going award to 10% of the on-going award (for those claimants in receipt of an award with no reduction due to income) and 25% (for those claimants with an award which has been reduced due to income but above the minimum award.)
• Have increased the income disregard, the level at which a household’s income may rise compared to the previous year without affecting the level of award, from £2,500 to £25,000.
• Suspend recovery of tax credit overpayments following an initial dispute, a subsequent dispute where new and relevant information has been provided, any appeal against an entitlement or penalty decision.
Freedom of Information requests
You said you were not satisfied with the way we have treated some of your requests under the Freedom of Information Act. As with all public bodies we must act within the law and so, where appropriate, must consider questions from the public under the Freedom of Information provisions to ensure they are handled correctly, fairly and consistently. Parliament has set out a statutory framework for this which includes a timetable for release of information. It recognised that there is a cost to the taxpayer in officials extracting and finding this information and that the right to access information needs to be balanced against the need of public authorities to continue to carry out their other duties and therefore has set a cost limit for each request.. We are therefore allowed to decline to comply with certain requests for information where these requests would be particularly expensive. The method of calculating the cost is set out in the fees regulations. Further information can be found at You must be logged in to see this link.
The TCC website
Thank you for passing on the link to your group’s website forum. I did take the time to read the posts about individual court experiences. I am sure you understand that it is difficult for me to comment without knowing the full details of any case however I feel I should refer to some of the information we sent out in advance of our meeting with you. This explained our processes for the use of legal proceedings to enforce recovery of tax credit overpayments as well as the fact that, once in court, both we and the claimants are under the jurisdiction of the Judge. I have included another copy of this note with my e-mail.
One of your most recent e-mails included the TCC’s advice to us about the sympathetic treatment of tax credit claimants who have been unfortunate victims of the recent severe flooding. Treasury Ministers made a written statement to Parliament on 26 July 2007 about our approach to the flooding across all areas of its work. On Tax Credits the statement said:
“HMRC will also support those who have difficulty sending in their tax credit renewals on time or notifying HMRC of any change in circumstances. Individuals affected by the floods should contact HMRC who will take steps to ensure that tax credits continue to be paid at the right level”
Your complaints
I have noted your complaint against a member of my team and can assure you that the department takes all such matters seriously. I did recognise that the implications for tax credits of the introduction of civil partnerships is a real source of concern for your group and that our explanation of why we had to recognise the legislative status of such partnerships was one you disputed. However, I neither saw nor heard anything from anyone on my team at the meeting with TCCG which could be open to criticism. I do recognise that you do not take the same view.
Suspension of overpayments
Further to your telephone call on Wednesday, as my colleague explained we are not suspending the recovery of all tax credit overpayments.
Meeting with the Adjudicator
This would be something for you to take up with the Adjudicator’s Office and it would not be appropriate for me to influence their decision over whether the TCC should visit either way.
Further CDs
If you have requested further information from the Tax Credit Office then you should contact them if you need an update on your request as this will be the most efficient way of resolving this.
Finally, as promised at our meeting, we have looked into the handling of the direct recovery of Sarah’s tax credit overpayment. I would be very grateful if you could provide me with a contact address for Sarah so that we can write to her directly.

Tracy Gale

I'm collating our response now, so feel free to post messages here, or PM me with any thoughts of your own which you'd like included!
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39 Posts

Posted - 17/08/2007 :  11:48:07  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Hi Ali,

I've been cheeky and posted this as a new topic in this folder to make it easier for visitors to find. Hope that's ok.
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Ali M-W

3558 Posts

Posted - 17/08/2007 :  22:19:31  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Not a problem - you've saved me the trouble of moving it to its own spot! Ta.
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