Reply To: Delays, what delays?


Thousands of low income families are still waiting this weekend for emergency tax credit payments after a month of chaos at the Inland Revenue has left them almost penniless.
The government claims only “a tiny percentage” of families have been left without cash this month following the introduction of the new tax credits, but Jobs & Money has been inundated by readers saying they will be forced into debt unless the cash turns up soon.

Wendy Ball of Brighton says she could lose her tenancy if the benefits fail to arrive in her bank account in the next week. She adds: “It is getting to the point of being evicted from my home.”

In-work benefits can make up half the income of many families claiming the new working tax credit and child tax credit but bungling and mismanagement at the Revenue has ensured that many have not seen a penny this month. Almost four million applications have been sent to the Revenue. In the house of commons last week, the treasury minister Dawn Primarolo said the government could only guarantee paying the 2.6m applications received by January 31.

Ms Ball, a single parent who works for her local council, says she sent her form in last October. She received a letter this week telling her that an emergency payment for £115.78 would be paid into her bank account, but when she checked her account there was only £78.

“I’ve tried to ring the Revenue to find out what is going on but I just get cut off after a faint voice says there is no one to answer my call and to ring back.”

The switch was supposed to happen smoothly on April 5. But a catalogue of errors by Inland Revenue staff and the overly complicated rules governing the new credits has delayed payments.

Calls to the Inland Revenue helplines have proved fruitless, say claimants, despite the redeployment of 700 call centre staff last week by the Revenue. It says its three call centres have received 200,000 more calls than expected.

Others, like Ms Ball, have received half the cash they have been told to expect. Tove Da Lenius of Leicester has three children (Iman, 10, Ilhaam, 6, and Hawa, 3) and a nursery bill that runs to £500 a month. She doesn’t know if she can afford to pay the bills because she has yet to receive an award notice and has failed to get through to the helplines.

She says she may be forced to stop working as a community arts worker unless the money she received under the old system continues to top up her £5,000 self-employed earnings.

The Revenue has promised to pay emergency giros to individuals who go to their nearest tax office. Unfortunately, benefit advice centres report that local tax offices operate a different computer system to the tax credit centre in Preston and are forced to send faxes to Preston to confirm payments. “Just like phone calls from Joe Public, these faxes can’t get through,” says one advice worker.

MPs from all parties have told the government to devote more resources to sort out the chaotic situation. Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat shadow work and pensions minister, says: “The introduction of the new tax credit system has been farcical from the very start. The government has admitted as much and must now act.”

A spokesman for the Revenue says: “The Inland Revenue is very sorry that people have had problems getting through to the helpline. Two-thirds of all claimants have chosen to receive their payment every four weeks. If they sent their claim to us by 31 January and there are no outstanding enquiries they can expect to receive their first payments by 2 May.

“Assuming no enquiries, the vast majority of those to be paid weekly who claimed by 31 January will either have received their money or will get it in the next couple of days.”