Tax Credit Casualties Forum
Tax Credit Casualties Forum
Home | Profile | Active Topics | Active Polls | Members | Private Messages | Search | FAQ
Username:
Password:
Save Password
Forgot your Password?

 All Forums
 Archive
 Meeting at Westminster
 Labour's New Leader????
 Forum Locked
 Printer Friendly
Author Previous Topic Topic Next Topic  

Ali M-W
Mod


3558 Posts

Posted - 21/05/2010 :  06:43:43  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Diane Abbott has expressed an interest in leading the Labour Party!!!! See You must be logged in to see this link.

Diane seems like a good woman:

Ms Diane Abbott (Labour MP for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) had the guts to receive a ticking-off during a debate on Citizens Advice Bureaux on 2nd December 2009 for repeatedly bringing up the issue of unfair tax credit overpayment recovery rather than toeing the party line and accepting that a casualty rate of at least one in five recipients of tax credits was acceptable wastage, and simply waffling on generally in praise of CAB and ignoring a major part of their work, as her colleagues did. Here’s some quotes from Diane:

Citizens Advice continues to be concerned nationally about the continuing hardship and stress of people who are still repaying tax credits that were overpaid during the first two years of the system's operation. Next year's pre-Budget report will be an opportunity for the Government to deal with the problem of tax credit overpayment. We all know the problems with the system. People who are entitled to tax credits are frightened off from claiming them because they have heard of people who are harassed and burdened with a debt that is not really of their making.

Members of Parliament and Citizens Advice know that the standard of administration of tax credits was very poor in the first two years of the system-a fact that the Government have acknowledged. In addition, the level of support that is now available to help people with their claims was not available in the first two years. It is wrong that claimants with overpayment debts dating back to 2003-04 or 2004-05 should still be struggling to establish the extent of and reason for their debt, and to repay the balance, which forces them further into debt.

The efforts of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to write off more old tax credit overpayment debt are welcome, but more needs to be done.

Ms Abbott: Yes; but Hackney citizens advice bureau is particularly concerned about long-standing tax credit debt, and so is Citizens Advice nationally, so I wanted to flag it up. The Minister may not be able to respond on the issue today, but I hope that he will consider it…I look forward to the Minister's response to the many important points that have been raised this morning.

Thanks, Diane, for supporting us and standing up for what you believe in!

You must be logged in to see this link.


Diane is one of the few Labour MPs who gives a monkeys about tax credit overpayment victims. Since Jon Cruddas, also a Pro-Amnesty MP, has decided not to stand as Party Leader, I hope Casualties will give Diane their support. Had Sarah McCarthy-Fry won Portsmouth North, I would be asking her to support Diane, but she lost her seat to Penny Mordaunt, Conservative, whose record for helping local people - and Tax Credit Casualties - was far superior. Perhaps others would like to ask their own Labour MPs to support Diane as the Party's new Leader?


Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.

Google AdSense

USA
Mountain View


auntieh
Rank; Really should become a politician



United Kingdom
625 Posts

Posted - 01/06/2010 :  21:36:11  Show Profile Send auntieh a Private Message
Is Penny going to be raising the plight of tax credit casualties at all?

Auntie

"You can dress a pig in a suit but you can't stop it grunting"
Go to Top of Page

Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 08/06/2010 :  08:19:39  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Auntie, I do hope so! I have written to Penny and I have every confidence she will continue to fight for us, especially as she quite rightly, in her election leaflets, cited the work she has done on behalf of local constituents who are victims, and our national group (and if nothing else, wouldn't it be embarrassing to drop us the moment she was elected with a resounding majority - but she isn't like that). I'd had a email from her just as the election results were in and the Conservatives and Lib Dems were negotiating common ground. Penny told me she'd sopken to David Cameron (I think she's still sitting pretty much right behind him in Parliament)to get some tax credit justice into the mix.

Big blow we've lost David Laws, as he was a pro-justice advocate even before Tax Credit Casualties got big. But he'll still be behind the scenes, and Danny Alexander inherited some of his fire. Let's hope more rather than less.

Anyway, I've been quiet as I've been busy behind the scenes... Please look at the letter I've drafted under "3rd sector" above, and send it to your MP..... Ta, Ali.

(missing words added!)

Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.

Edited by - Ali M-W on 08/06/2010 08:21:11
Go to Top of Page

Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2010 :  07:24:37  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Hi Auntie,

There's a couple of typing errors in the following, but this is basically what I wrote to Penny. (Feel free, anyone, if you want to adapt it to send to your own MPs...) These letters never transplant very well, so the paragraphing/fonts may look odd, and the bullet-points will almost certainly disappear, but basically this was it:



PO6 2QG
Rt. Hon. Penny Mordaunt MP,
House of Commons,
London,
SW1A 0AA.

31st May 2010


Dear Penny,
I am writing to you (more formally than usual!) as both a constituent and as a member of Tax Credit Casualties, which I know will need no introduction. Congratulations on winning Portsmouth North for the Conservatives with an impressive majority, which reflects how local people value your genuine enthusiasm and dedication to our city. Spotting you on TV sitting behind key figures in our new Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government, I was filled with hope that Britain’s long-awaited new government may have synthesised the best from both parties. Indeed, the Cabinet is mainly made up of people who, thanks to your support with our Westminster campaigns, we have met or corresponded with, who have expressed support for the TCC’s pursuit of justice for every honest claimant. George Osborne, David Gauke, Theresa May, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws (whose support for tax credit justice, as far as I am concerned, showed his underlying integrity), Danny Alexander, Vince Cable and others have all spoken out against the capricious current system which haemorrhages millions of pounds both in its maladministration and in its subsequent ruthless pursuit of innocently indebted claimants who spent their apparent entitlement in good faith and cannot afford to repay.

Whilst we appreciate the many items of urgent business requiring our new leaders’ attention, as you know, casualties of the Tax Credit system are still waiting for help from Central Government. Some of our members have been fighting unjust recovery of overpayments for five or six years now and have been shamefully disregarded and disenfranchised by the previous Government.

The people of Britain desperately need the promised reform of the Tax Credit system to reinstate the fixed term payments that worked so well in the days of Working Families Tax Credits, but we also urgently need an immediate Amnesty on the repayment of all non-fraudulent overpayments.

You helped us highlight the unfairness of the Tax Credit system and the devastating impact that overpayments have on families, publishing and supporting us to distribute our ‘Voices of the Victims’ booklet. Yet we continue to hear of more and more injustices daily, and could (as you know) fill book after book with harrowing true stories.
I know you are aware of individual cases highlighted in this booklet, and that you have helped many local people to dispute unfair recovery, linking them to our voluntary group for support, for which I thank you. You clearly recognise how the tax credit system can harm people when it fails. What I don’t know, however, is how familiar you are with the different ways in which the system inflicts these injuries and injustices, and how these arise, so please forgive me if I am describing what you already know. I do so because I know that you have already advocated with David Cameron on behalf of the innocent victims, and that you – perhaps more than any other person in the Commons – have the knowledge and will to see through what you have helped us to start, and achieve the Amnesty which is not only ethical but economically sound.

• HMRC caused many overpayments themselves, through a mixture of poor training, understaffing, incompetence, computer system faults, internal fraud and the system’s over-complexity.
• HMRC officials’ poor understanding of the system leads to inconsistent decisions and bad advice, eg. a young mother recently forfeited her almost-completed apprenticeship when HMRC reneged on its earlier decision to class this as work, saddling her with a huge bill, which resulted in her having to abandon her apprenticeship and slip back, with her child, into poverty.
• The Tax Credit system, designed to be heavily automated, was broken even before it was implemented. This placed huge demands on a reduced HMRC workforce with blocks of inexperienced HMRC staff being shuffled around to whichever department had the biggest fire to fight at the time. To some degree, this is still happening.
• Very often, advice given by HMRC to claimants turns out to be wrong and causes an overpayment. Yet when a data Subject Access Request is submitted by the claimant, the data that is returned omits the single item that would incriminate HMRC. This ensures that the claimant, unjustly, remains responsible for repayment.
• Computer software faults still exist, so Tax Credit Office personnel must find ways to ‘fool’ various software modules so that claims can be paid. This causes major future problems that few TCO employees can recognise and rectify, so the innocent claimant ends up repaying a non-existent overpayment. (Analysis of one claimant’s her data from HMRC revealed that rather than being overpaid, she had actually been underpaid by £10,000, because of this software problem. We have still to learn whether she will have to repay the alleged overpayment!)
• A particularly vile practice of HMRC is the annulment of awards and the fact that they make no allowance for losses within the postal system. Should end of year paperwork be lost at any stage of its journey through the postal system, and not recorded as received by the Tax Credit computer system, the whole of the previous year’s award is deemed overpaid and demanded back. There are no second chances.
• Joint awards are terminated at any time because relationships and marriages break down, or loved ones die, often after long and traumatic illnesses. Any existing overpayment that was being repaid, in instalments from a current award, then becomes an immediate payment due. Although on paper HMRC has the power of discretion to write-off these overpayments because of the ill health or psychological trauma that claimants experience, at a time when they are at their very lowest and in need of most help, we have never heard a single instance of HMRC doing this.

Injustice exists even within the dispute process. HMRC’s internal dispute procedure uses their Code of Practice 26 as their rule book. This has been amended several times since 2003 to reduce bias towards HMRC, yet claimants can still only apparently dispute their overpayments in accordance with the version in force when their overpayment occurred.

To this day, HMRC still apply COP26 rules unfairly, eg. if a claimant made a minor mistake and HMRC huge/multiple errors, the fact that the claimant erred at all is used to justify recovery of an overpayment.
Should the claimant have the stamina to take their dispute further, they find that both the Adjudicator (appointed by HMRC themselves) and the Parliamentary Ombudsman use HMRC’s Code of Practice 26 as their rule book. Without wishing to taint either office, they have no brief which allows them to give a truly impartial ruling, and no teeth to sanction HMRC for major failings.

Even when HMRC have rightly been found to be at fault, these bodies still order the claimant to repay the overpayment, granting only a very small amount of compensation because of HMRC’s failings. This still leaves victims hugely out of pocket!

The final possible step in the available dispute process is for the claimant to take legal action. Unfortunately, the very fact that a claimant is receiving Tax Credits is enough to take them outside of the financial qualification for Legal Aid. To the best of our knowledge, because of these financial restrictions, nobody has yet attempted this. As for a Judicial Review, this costs tens of thousands of pounds, and can only be pursued through sponsorship by a major charity such as the Child Poverty Action Group, with claimants largely unaware that this route exists, and stringent eligibility criteria applying. Nevertheless, Labour spin has included this as a leg of the dispute process as though it were readily accessible to all!

The effect of there being no truly impartial and independent dispute process available to Tax Credit claimants who wish to dispute unfair recovery is that the system is still weighted heavily against them, probably intentionally so (given the emerging reckless spending of our previous government). It behoves our new government, in the spirit of compassionate conservatism, to expose this injustice and draw a line under all non-fraudulent overpayments made to date.

As you know, tax credit bills can reach thousands of pounds, and we are forever seeing records broken. The largest for which we have currently been asked advice is £58,000 – over double the sum of the Portsmouth man to whose aid you came in January 2008, dismayed by the enormity of the sum demanded!

I am sure I am preaching to the converted in noting the absurdity of expecting ordinary people to produce thousands of pounds on demand, accumulated over many years of compounding HMRC errors previously unnoticed, and disproportionately affecting the poorest families for whom tax credits were intended to be a helping hand! Although HMRC discretionary powers to write-off overpayments where there is hardship, serious illness in the family, or a mental health condition which is likely to worsen under stress, we have never heard a single instance of this discretion being applied, despite the many harrowing and tragic accounts that – as you know - we receive from claimants. Indeed, tax credit “insiders” confirm it is unheard of, despite assurances by Labour Ministers to the contrary.

Meanwhile, claimants are forced into long term, crippling repayment agreements which you yourself have identified that it will cost a fortune to administer and police. One claimant, who was the victim of an infamous and common computer fault that zeroed his income, has to repay £65.46 a month for 8 years and 7 months, despite the Adjudicator finding HMRC at fault. Another is repaying £10.09 a month for the next 50 years, despite keeping the Tax Credit Office fully informed of circumstances, as is required.

One of the reasons that there has not been a huge and sustained public outcry about the numerous injustices of the Tax Credit system is because the majority of overpayments are recovered from ongoing awards, to which claimants acquiesce, resigned to living on a reduced income, persuaded that they have no right of dispute (since HMRC letters commonly say. “you cannot appeal…”), and often grateful for the residual tax credits they are receiving. Whenever claimants are informed (usually by TCC, welfare agencies or trade unions, and seldom by HMRC) of their rights, and do decide to investigate their overpayments, the fault is found to lie with HMRC far too often. Despite this, the system is designed in such a way that innocent claimants can only win if their honesty is accompanied by a grim determination to ignore a succession of “it is your fault regardless, and you must pay” letters and continue stoking the system with further evidence of their compliance, endlessly pressing for answers and explanations withheld by HMRC (honestly, Penny, you should see the “answering” letters our members receive to their pertinent queries). Meanwhile, absorbed in a dispute process commonly lasting years, their families suffer simply because injustice abounds unchecked within the Tax Credit system.

I could go on and on, listing injustices within the Tax Credit system and the many ways that HMRC compound the effect of those injustices by using harsh tax laws that should never have been applied to what is effectively a benefit. I know, however, that you are no stranger to the injustices inherent in this system, and I urge you to continue to do your utmost to rectify this. I hope you will include these injustices in your Maiden Speech.

As for the financial argument of writing-off all non-fraudulent overpayments, when you supported us to launch ‘Voices of the Victims’ at Portcullis House in June 2008, we clearly demonstrated that pursuing recovery of these overpayments is not in the best interests of the public purse. This is an issue which is of increasing importance in the current financial climate. We also firmly believe that a fair and transparent system would reduce the costs of administering the system and deliver much needed efficiency savings.
Tax Credit Casualties have enjoyed the support of both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties whilst both were in opposition. Nothing regarding Tax Credit overpayments has changed, and now that both Parties share power justice can finally be done.
Reforming the Tax Credit system and ceasing the recovery of all non-fraudulent overpayments is in the best interest of the country and its people. We look to you to deliver this on behalf of every Tax Credit claimant who has been forced into debt by this unjust system, under a Labour government that deserted them and didn’t care.

Let yours be the Government that rights one of the biggest wrongs ever done to the British people.

Yours Sincerely,
Alison M-W





Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
Go to Top of Page

Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 12/06/2010 :  07:31:36  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I know I've gone a bit off-topic on this thread, but before I find my way back (please remember folks - Diane Abbott is the Labour Leadership Candidate most likely to support the coalition government to deliver the Tax Credit Amnesty we have long been discussing with many of the Ministers now making up the new Cabinet!), I must share new MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt's, reply with you:



Dear Alison

Thank you for your letter regarding the ongoing battle for a fair tax credit system. Thank you also for your congratulations on my election to Parliament.

I assure you that my resolve to push the Government on the issue of a tax credit amnesty and reform of the system itself is undiminished, and I will be raising these points with Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who has ministerial responsibility in this area.

It is ridiculous that a system designed to offer support to needy families can be so damaging. It is axiomatic that a tax credit claimant needs the money and will therefore spend it, hot hoard it away against the contingency of an overpayment caused by an HMRC error. It is a matter of natural justice that non-fraudulent overpayments should be written off; the challenge is to find an acceptable balance between justice and what the Treasury can afford.

I will be in touch again soon, but in the meantime please do let me know if you have any further concerns or points to raise.

Yours sincerely,

Penny

..and she hand-writes “I am on the case!”



I heard yesterday that Alan (the Geordie) has got a similar promise from his MP DAVE ANDERSON to support Tax Credit Casualties - and this from a Labour man! So I do hope other members will follow suit with letters of their own to their MPs (you can use and adapt the letter above or write your own - but please just WRITE!) and get the system changed!

Wouldn't it be nice not just to get Tax Credit Justice but to know that your own efforts have been crucial to this success?

Thanks, everyone!

Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
Go to Top of Page
  Previous Topic Topic Next Topic  
 Forum Locked
 Printer Friendly
Jump To:
Tax Credit Casualties Forum © 2005-10 Tax Credit Casualties Go To Top Of Page
Snitz Forums 2000
RSS Feed 1 RSS Feed 2
Powered by ForumCo 2000-2008
TOS - AUP - URA - Privacy Policy