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Simpatico
Rank; Hector Tax Inspector



14 Posts

Posted - 07/03/2010 :  14:30:09  Show Profile Send Simpatico a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W

Yes, Simpatico, telling the media is certainly very effective. I know a few members now who have gone to a major newspaper and got a result. Thanks for confirming what I have always suspected.

Just out of curiosity, how would you rate your office for dealing with disputes and complaints? Would you say that you have the time to fully investigate a dispute, or are their deadlines? Could you elaborate on the process a little?

You must see similar cases where one person has a write-off but another is denied. Is it just a case of whose desk the work ends up on, and individual discretion, or is there something else operating? What would be the influencing factors, would you say?

And without giving any identifying details, but a bit of an example if you can, what's the best bit of practice and the worst bit of conduct you have seen? It's my view that the skills and competency of different workers varies tremendously and it is not even. I'd be interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks!


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.



Hi Ali, sorry I haven't responded in a bit, been mega busy, but I will do a quick reply now and hopefully come back to answer the rest later.

In our office, though we deal with complaints, we don't have anything to do with the dispute process beyond taking calls about it, so it's hard for me to explain the process as I don't see it fully on a day to day basis.

I do know people who have worked in the processing offices though and dealt with disputes and whilst they are supposed to have - like people in the call centre - concrete guidance to follow, though of course this only works up to a point. I have been told some stories that when people write full and frank letters of explanation/complete a dispute the actual facts are often ignored and its a case of "well, we can use the cop 26 to prove that the applicant didn't do a/b/c so they have to repay it." So it kindof makes a mockery of having some poor soul pour their heart out in a letter only to have it ignored by staff who are told they must stick to the guidance/cold hard facts.

I do know for sure that with overpayments occurring from the non completion/return of the S17, where the award has terminated will only be quashed (and the award put back into payment) if the applicant has suffered one of the following things:

1 - Loss of a child (no other relative passing away is seen as good enough reason, though I've seen in some cases where a partner has passed away they have let it slide.) Nice, eh?
2 - If the applicant has been in a coma or hospitalised and there is genuinely no one else that could have seen to their affairs for them.

Yes, it really is that cut and dried. Even if a person rings up and says they have been in hospital with, say, a broken leg or another illness that is debilitating, the powers that be won't accept this as "they could have got someone else to complete the renewal for them."

And of course "lost in the post" isn't even considered a viable excuse for the non completion/return.

It's hard for us as advisers to discern why overpayments are written off and not others. All we get is notes from the disputes team stating that an overpayment has/hasn't been written off in full or in part that say things like "HMRC met all/didn't meet/met some of its responsiblities" with a note stating how much, if any, of the overpayment has been written off.

It's a bit of a closed shop to people in the call centre, I'm afraid.

Witht he staff overpayments thing, I know two people who have had to pay overpayments back who work in our office so I don't think the quote below is correct, and certainly would never advise people to ignore letters from HMRC about overpayments, they never do just "go away," even if it takes 5 years for the situation to rear its ugly head again.
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Simpatico
Rank; Hector Tax Inspector



14 Posts

Posted - 07/03/2010 :  14:31:07  Show Profile Send Simpatico a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W

Yes, Simpatico, telling the media is certainly very effective. I know a few members now who have gone to a major newspaper and got a result. Thanks for confirming what I have always suspected.

Just out of curiosity, how would you rate your office for dealing with disputes and complaints? Would you say that you have the time to fully investigate a dispute, or are their deadlines? Could you elaborate on the process a little?

You must see similar cases where one person has a write-off but another is denied. Is it just a case of whose desk the work ends up on, and individual discretion, or is there something else operating? What would be the influencing factors, would you say?

And without giving any identifying details, but a bit of an example if you can, what's the best bit of practice and the worst bit of conduct you have seen? It's my view that the skills and competency of different workers varies tremendously and it is not even. I'd be interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks!


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.



Hi Ali, sorry I haven't responded in a bit, been mega busy, but I will do a quick reply now and hopefully come back to answer the rest later.

In our office, though we deal with complaints, we don't have anything to do with the dispute process beyond taking calls about it, so it's hard for me to explain the process as I don't see it fully on a day to day basis.

I do know people who have worked in the processing offices though and dealt with disputes and whilst they are supposed to have - like people in the call centre - concrete guidance to follow, though of course this only works up to a point. I have been told some stories that when people write full and frank letters of explanation/complete a dispute the actual facts are often ignored and its a case of "well, we can use the cop 26 to prove that the applicant didn't do a/b/c so they have to repay it." So it kindof makes a mockery of having some poor soul pour their heart out in a letter only to have it ignored by staff who are told they must stick to the guidance/cold hard facts.

I do know for sure that with overpayments occurring from the non completion/return of the S17, where the award has terminated will only be quashed (and the award put back into payment) if the applicant has suffered one of the following things:

1 - Loss of a child (no other relative passing away is seen as good enough reason, though I've seen in some cases where a partner has passed away they have let it slide.) Nice, eh?
2 - If the applicant has been in a coma or hospitalised and there is genuinely no one else that could have seen to their affairs for them.

Yes, it really is that cut and dried. Even if a person rings up and says they have been in hospital with, say, a broken leg or another illness that is debilitating, the powers that be won't accept this as "they could have got someone else to complete the renewal for them."

And of course "lost in the post" isn't even considered a viable excuse for the non completion/return.

It's hard for us as advisers to discern why overpayments are written off and not others. All we get is notes from the disputes team stating that an overpayment has/hasn't been written off in full or in part that say things like "HMRC met all/didn't meet/met some of its responsiblities" with a note stating how much, if any, of the overpayment has been written off.

It's a bit of a closed shop to people in the call centre, I'm afraid.

Witht he staff overpayments thing, I know two people who have had to pay overpayments back who work in our office so I don't think the quote below is correct, and certainly would never advise people to ignore letters from HMRC about overpayments, they never do just "go away," even if it takes 5 years for the situation to rear its ugly head again.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 07/03/2010 :  19:37:09  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
<< Witht he staff overpayments thing, I know two people who have had to pay overpayments back who work in our office.. >>

A while ago, I became a member of an HMRC employees forum called "Disgruntled Lemmings" - the idea being to foster a better understanding between what had become a "them" and "us" situation.

Some of their members made me very welcome & we had some good chats about life in general, but others weren't too happy about having a member who had - as they put it - "a foot in both camps" so I felt it better to bow out gracefully - which I did.

The strange thing for me was that not one of them would admit to working in the Tax Credits department and during my relatively short time with them, I received 3 PM's from them asking for advice regarding overpayments of Tax Credits!!

"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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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  06:59:27  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks for that, Simpatico. I was somewhat surprised to hear that the only situation in which the overpayments team could "forgive" the non-return of a renewal pack was if the claimant's child had died. It seems rather harsh to make this the only condition under which the award could be reinstated. My own guilty conscience tells me that I see less of my parents, who are now in their eighties, than I ought to, and whilst most people will have a "next of kin", some are more useful than others in the event of ill health. Blame this on distance, busy working lives, estrangement, the stresses of modern life, indifference or whatever, but the fact remains that being ill in hospital usually means at least the occasional visit but not necessarily full assistance with things at home, or financial affairs. That tends to be the last thing thought about.

I will post this before it gets lost in the ether, then resume.

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.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  07:24:52  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
It's interesting, though, because in reality there are many reasons for not returning an annual declaration/renewal form, and when the whole issue blew up a few months ago, I wrote to Michael Jabez Foster and Stephen Timms about it. The former is a New Labour MP who had some qualms about people's whole awards being terminated on the basis on alleged non-return of their annual declaration, and argued against their previous year's/years' payments being declared overpayments automatically as a result. He devised an Early Day Motion to this effect, which was a little clumsy in the way it was written, but was saying that these "overpayments" needed to be written off. I will have to check, but I believe that, increasingly, they are.

To cut a long story short, there are many reasons why annual declarations don't get done. Firstly, they may not even be received at the correct address. We have a disputed case in the "new members" section where the claimant is saying that HMRC admitted that they sent this form to the wrong address yet are still treating it as though the claimant was in the wrong for not returning it! Another claim often made is that the claimant returned it but HMRC didn't receive it. This is highly probable given the problems within Royal Mail at the moment, articles about HMRC having (allegedly) a million items of unopened post, and data loss within the system (a letter I sent HMRC was, it turns out, lost twice - once when I first sent it, and a second time when LITRG sent a copy of it to HMRC to jog their memories, and so was the recording of a crucial call, never to this day found).

Then there are those situations when a claimant does receive the form but chooses not to return it. In my experience, this is very common. This tends to happen either because HMRC has been making automatic deductions from the previous award to the extent that the claimant sees no benefit to claiming the award, or niaively thinks that by not renewing it, the "debt" will be repaid faster and both award and "debt" will end; or because the claimant is being actively pursued for recovery of the overpayment in full because they are no longer receiving a tax credit award for whatever reason, and just assumes that they won't qualify for anything further and the process is both optional and a waste of time. Or there are people who choose not to complete the form as they have received overpayments in previous years and think that by so doing, they are opting out of future awards voluntarily, rather than incurring a bigger debt!

I could explain this in more detail, but I am sure that your eyes will be glazing over by now with boredom and stupefication. But John Hemmings, the Lib Dem, was hot on the subject of annulled awards/non-return of annual declaration problems, and - amazingly - he was soon joined by the New Labour MP Michael Jabez Foster who felt so strongly about the problem that he stood up against his own party in an attempt to put it right.

It would be good to know if more people are now challenging this issue and winning as a result. If the work done by our members, TCC, John Hemming and Michael Jabez Foster has indeed paid off (something tells me it has, although the fact won't be advertised) then there should be more instances than bereavement of a child in which any resultant overpayment gets written off.

Thanks for your helpful response, once again, Simpatico! Great to have you on board!

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.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  07:29:51  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
I'm still curious to know if you have seen any examples of really good, helpful practice in your office, as well as any instances when you have been less than happy with what you have witnessed. I can see that you are very thorough and helpful in your approach, trying to be fair to the honest and understandably keen to know that the person calling is truthful and honest, but in my experience the team does seem to be a very mixed bunch (probably true of everywhere). Just wondered what a fly-on-the-wall might pick up around your place? Anything you can share with us?

Thanks, as always. Ali.

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.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 01/04/2010 :  07:42:12  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Have we lost you, Simpatico? Or are you likely to be back soon?

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.
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Alan the Geordie
Admin



3032 Posts

Posted - 07/04/2010 :  10:20:04  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ali M-W

Have we lost you, Simpatico? Or are you likely to be back soon?

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.



Probably been kidnapped, bound, gagged and locked in a cupboard somewhere with a thousand or two of unopened claim renewal forms & other correspondence for company!

HMRC "management" seem to operate a policy of "out of sight - out of mind".

"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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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 10/04/2010 :  10:19:04  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Many sympathetic Tax Credit Office/Helpline and Debt Recovery workers or former workers feel obliged at some stage to keep the lowest possible profile, so my heartfelt thanks go to the few I know about who are still around.

Perhaps under the new government we are all hoping for, whether born-again Labour (please God, without Brown), Compassionate Conservative (dare we believe) or hung (sadly not in the capital punishment sense of the word)we will see Whistleblowers coming forward boldly with their revelations, rather than whispering them to us before fleeing and hiding away for fear of discovery and retribution by/from their Warlords - oops, employers.

Roll on May 6th - although not before all our collective campaigning bears fruit.

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.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 22/05/2010 :  08:09:42  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
At the start of this forum thread is some advice on how to sign up to this forum anonymously if, for example, you are a cause-sympathetic HMRC worker with reason to whistleblow, or someone who knows enough about the inside workings of HMRC to see that there are things they don't want us to know...

You are always welcome here!

Internal HMRC fraud and the PVE "system" are current areas of interest and further research for us - if there is anyone "out there" with information... and some courage to come forward and talk to us!!!

Thanks. We have a new administration now, and that's always an open invitation to expose exactly where the old administration may have failed us.

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.
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