Sunday, 1 March 2009
"Labourspace lets you quickly and easily set up a campaign and share your ideas with the Labourspace community. If you start a campaign which gains the most popular support your ideas will be bought to the attention of senior Labour politicians - your campaign could give you the opportunity to change the world! You'll win if you have the idea with the highest net support (supporters - detractors). All you need is to get the most support for your idea - it's all about people power really!"
No matter how you feel about the Government, this represents a fantastic opportunity to tell the Labour Party, as a whole, how we feel about Tax Credit overpayments. Not the Government itself, but the political party that funds their election campaigns and of which they are all members. So this is a whole new approach, and one with a tremendous amount of potential.
What do we need everyone to do? Easy. Click on the link to our LabourSpace campaign page, below, register on the site, and vote for our 'Justice is an Amnesty' campaign. Here's the link: http://www.labourspace.com/view_campaign?CampaignId=125 .
Then ask everyone you know to do the same, because this affects everyone who claims Tax Credits. If they haven't had an overpayment yet, it's only a matter of time.
We would rather that you didn't need our help in the future - so if we've helped you in the past, help us to put overpayments in the history books where they belong. Thank you.
You know what to do.
Make change happen!
Monday, 16 February 2009
Anyone who read my blog post of the 19th Nov 2008 (scroll down) might remember that I was ranting about HMRC responding to a letter they clearly hadn’t read! Well, guess how they followed that up?
The other evening we were filming with 'Dispatches' (they haven’t told us to keep schtum, so I’m not) at my house. Present were me and Sarah and a local TCC member; Dave, plus the presenter, producer and 3 crew members, so it was a little chaotic and noisy while we got set up.
During all the furniture rearranging etc. the phone rang. It was HMRC. There was so much chaos going on while I answered the phone that it took me a while to work out what the hell they were ringing about. (There was a quick panic as the TV crew tried to decide whether to film this or not, but in the end they didn’t). It turns out the caller wanted to discuss my complaint (into the fact that that they hadn’t read my previous complaint before responding). There was something funny about the way that he was picking his words so I immediately got suspicious and asked why exactly he was calling.
He said he wanted to ‘clarify’ the content of my letter. I asked what was to clarify, and he again, being evasive, said something like ‘the nature of the complaint’. And that’s when it hit me. I asked him if he had actually seen my complaint letter, to which he tried to avoid answering clearly, but he eventually admitted he hadn’t! He hadn’t even seen the letter he was supposed to be following up!!!! So I gave him some argy bargy about how he obviously expected me “to repeat at his will, all I had poured into that letter when I had already explained everything” and asked “how the heck can he follow up a letter he hasn’t seen” and hung up.
I was visibly shaking when I came off the phone I was so angry. For a start, I hate that they ring victims. I can’t say for sure it’s done to put us on the back foot but it certainly does. They have had a chance to prepare when they ring, but we have had no warning and expected to recall instantly all the facts of the matter, despite the many hours of work we have poured into writing it all down and sent to them. When they catch us on the hop they have the advantage of recall and detail over us, and the fact that actually we’re probably busy when they ring. Most of you have told me you hate talking to HMRC on the phone because of all this. That and how intimidating it is.
I have continuously refused to deal with my dispute or related matters over the phone, and have advised many more to do the same. I am dyslexic, but I’m sure it isn’t just dyslexics who have trouble recalling long ago dates, figures and facts at no notice while distracted. If this isn’t a deliberate ploy, then it’s a happy coincidence for HMRC.
As for the tactic of responding to letters they haven’t even read. What is there to say? They won’t read it!
To my mind the sooner we get this system scrapped the better. Asides from the wasteful administrative nightmare, too many brains are being bashed out on brick walls.
Friday, 30 January 2009
I split up from my violent hubby on the 29th of November 2008, and had to stop the old Joint claim, and make a claim as a single mother. I put the claim in on the 1st December as soon as their office opened, and was told on the phone by the advisor that it would only take 2 weeks to process my claim. I thought great i need the money as xmas was a mere 3 weeks away, 2 weeks went by and not a word, i phoned the helpline and was told the computer was refusing to accept my single claim as it kept coming back as a joint claim.
I was told to stay in touch and check progress, they were in no rush to sort it out either, meanwhile xmas was upon me and i was surviving on £86 a week to feed me plus six children, and put electric on the meter key. I kept phoning HMRC’s helpline but got absolutely nowhere, they just didn’t care, and were in no rush to sort it out, even though myself and six children were relying upon them.
I waited and waited and waited, i had to eventually involve Mr David Laws MP, as my attempts to get answers fell on deaf ears, HMRC have this knack of avoiding answering your questions proclaiming not to know the answer you seek, and when you ask to talk to the manager they wont let you, its frustrating how the bosses never come to the phone to answer you isn’t it?
I waited 7 very long arduous weeks surviving on very little money, stress levels were beyond a joke, i made phone calls to the Tax Credit helpline about 5 times a week, and wrote to David Laws twice about this matter.
The laughable thing in this though is how HMRC found time to send me a letter of demand for an overpayment that occured on the old joint claim for £400 within a week of my split, but failed to process my new single parent application for 7 weeks.
I was panicked and afraid of how me and the kids could possibly survive, stressed out to the max, on anti depressants, and sleeping pills, though the extreme pressure i was under keeping my family afloat.I felt ill constantly from lack of sleep, and dreaded getting up in the morning. Im 32 and greyer haired than most 70 year olds because of the weight of stress put upon me by HMRC Tax Credits.
HMRC’s incompetence and extremely slow services put me and my kids through a kind of hell. The way they put getting their overpayment money over processing my claim was disgusting.
I advise anyone going through this to buckle down the hatches your in for a long bumpy ride...
Monday, 26 January 2009
by Paula Dean
It’s not particularly Tax Credit related but a couple of my encounters this week do seem to illustrate very well how this farce was caused in the first place and how the rampant injustice continues unabated.
They do say; ‘anyone who wants to be in power, shouldn’t be’, and I’m not going to name any names. All I can say is, MP’s ..... who’d have 'em?
I wrote to mine this week regarding a non Tax Credit issue. No, I’m not one of them who camps out in their MP’s surgery with a list of issues to raise. My MP isn’t even involved in my Tax Credit dispute. (I can’t be bothered to continue the fight this would entail). Anyway, I emailed him a standardised missive from the TheyWorkForYou website asking him to vote NO to the cop-out from the Freedom of Information Act that the Whitehall lot were just about to fix for themselves regarding their expenses. I was polite, non-aggressive and impersonal, despite previous run-in's with the man.
I got back a vitriolic attack on the two other leading Parties, including comments that I’m pretty sure are libellous amongst other things. I’ve written back to complain. (The vote got scrapped as being too embarrassing anyway!).
Two days later, I ran in to his fellow party member and MP for the other half of this borough. Tax Credit Casualties were nominated in the local community achievement awards, and the hosts (Voluntary Action Rotherham) invited me to a celebration that was to be attended by royalty. I’m not known for being a fan of this particular family, but VAR had asked nominees to attend to reflect the diversity of our local voluntary community, and seeing as I got a lovely trophy and a slap up meal out of the awards do, plus lots of help from VAR over the years, I couldn’t really say no.
Lots of standing around in formation ensued while Prince Andrew was shown round. The fact he talked to everyone individually earned him lots of praise and I resolved to remain polite and helpful because it was obvious I would upset lots of people if I was even perceived to be disrespectful. He was alright to me for the few minutes we chatted (compulsory); he didn’t quite get what TCC did, but knew of overpayments, and complimented us that “it must be hard to understand tax law as it doesn’t appear to be written in English”. He reckons my dyslexia puts me at an advantage on this, which drew a round of laughs. When he’d done his thing and left, the attendees were all to ‘mingle’. This other MP was present. Please note he has previously held a ministerial role in the treasury, as such I have made contact with him on a number of occasions re TCC, but it appears that he is too frequently chased around local events by purpled haired ‘Goth’ women to be able to know which ones which.
He didn’t recognise me as a Tax Credit casualty and failed massively to read my polite but obvious body language (step stepping his approaches, turning away from him etc.) and ended up pinning me in a crowd to do small talk about the award I’d won that had earned me the invite. Pennies visibly dropped when I said our name, and to cut a long story short he tried to be brave and asked me if I had seen any improvement in Tax Credit overpayment cases, and asked me what I would suggest. I said ‘patch measures aren’t suitable, I would scrap the system ....’ at which point he interrupted me saying something dismissive and turned his back on me. Well! I told him not to dismiss people when he had just asked them a question. To which he said he wasn’t going to talk to me if I’m going to make unworkable comments. I made comments about his bad attitude and left.
I swear one day I will 'do time' for one of these guys, I really will. These are the guys supposedly working for the towns people benefit. We are continually expected to perform to a professional standard when communicating with them, (i.e. reachable during office hours, access to the same information as them etc.), despite being unfunded, voluntary, working after work hours and being mere mortals without the resources, staffing and power they have. Yet all the local contingent of TCC ever gets from them is rolled eyes, impatience, rudeness and outright inappropriate behaviour (a previous escapade which I won’t go into).
With behaviour like this allowed to continue unabated surely the role of MPs has to be questioned. They are supposed to be our democratic representatives in the parliamentary process, yet it’s quite obvious personal prejudices and political allegiances hinder them performing this in a fully balanced manner.
Wanna see what they spend our money on? They’d rather rewrite the law so you can’t. Wanna answer a question they are asked; ‘I can’t hear you, la la la la ...’
One more chink in my ‘I believe in justice’ armour!
Thursday, 18 December 2008
I’m blogging this, Slavetothetaxman, rather than adding a comment, as others might find this helpful too – I hope. Here’s what I would do. I’d write a stern letter to HMRC and quote their own responsibilities back to them. Here’s what HMRC say these are:
HM Revenue and Customs should:
- Give correct advice
- Record and use information accurately
- Correct errors notified by claimant
- Update reported changes in circumstances within 30 days
So I’d go back to the letter where HMRC admit their mistake and quote the words they’ve used and give the date of the letter so they can verify if themselves, as they are a tad daft when it comes to reviewing cases. Evidently somewhere along the line they have messed up on at least one of the above. I would quote the sentence or sentences which apply to them.
While doing this, I’d also take a look at all the data I’d been sent in response to my Subject Access Request (see www.TaxCC.org dispute pack for details) and cite every separate instance I was now aware of in which HMRC failed to meet their responsibilities to me.
After soothing the pain in my newly writers-cramped fingers, I would next study the responsibilities HMRC sets out for its claimants (retrospectively, of course – these people aren’t entirely stupid):
The main responsibilities for the claimant (from 1 February 2008) are to:
- Give accurate, complete and up to date information
- Report changes in circumstances
- Use the checklist to check every award notice
- Tell HMRC of errors in an award notice within 1 month
- Check that amounts received agree with the award notice
Then I would cite every example I can identify of my being fully honest and compliant. Did my income change? My couple status? Did I have a baby? Claim DLA? If something changed and I reported this, I’d flag up in a similar way to the above how I had met my responsibilities. If by any chance I failed to meet a responsibility, I’d consider why that was. Am I evil and corrupt? Well, my children think I am at times, but actually, no. So why didn’t I do this? If, for example, I didn’t do it because it wasn’t intuitive and HMRC never told me I had to, or told me I had to do something different – why, that would mean that HMRC failed to ‘give correct advice’, wouldn’t it?
Once I’d written this letter, I’d ‘cc’ it to the world and her husband. So at the very least, that’s my elected MP, and (the amazing) Paula Dean at Tax Credit Casualties. However, it could also be copied to Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury who apparently oversees tax credits, and any representatives I had from organizations such as CAB, Tax Aid, LITRG, CPAG, One Parent Families, my Trade Union Welfare department, etc. Oh yes, a newspaper journalist might also be interested, so I’d copy my current favourite in for good measure.
Bullies of the HMRC kind prefer to beat people up in dark alleys – they don’t relish doing it under the watchful eye of the News of the World or Sunday Times. In my experience, brave folk who are happy to talk to a reporter often get the speediest resolution to their case ever to be seen.
Good luck. Justice may yet prevail.
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
I have been fighting HMRC for over 4 years!! They sent me a letter stating they were sorry but they had mis-calculated our award and that it was their fault but we must pay back more than £6,400.00!! I have repeatedly asked them to explain how this happened but they won't. There is no way we can pay this back. What can we do if they have admitted it was their fault but won't stick to what the government promised, that if it is their fault we won't have to pay it back? Can we take action against them for changing their mind? Their code of practice states that if you can prove it was their fault and that you believed the calculations were correct you don't have to pay the money back, but they have gone against their own code of practice so now what? We have almost had a breakdown over this but we have to pay for their mistakes!! Where do I turn to? I have done everything I can to get this written off but they keep sending the same mindless letters out stating I haven’t provided any new information. I know that because they made the mistake not me!! Criminals are treated better than this!
Monday, 8 December 2008
Well, I'm sure most of you have been through very similar. I reached a point today where I felt close to despair so went searching for people in a similar situation and found you guys and a lovely group on facebook too. It has helped me feel better already.
I have always been honest with the Tax Credits people - I believe it's the best way to be but I am wondering if it's made my situation worse. I had trundled along with the odd correction here and there and had paid back various 'miscalculations' over the years as my partner at the time was self-employed. Par for the course I thought. So, when my partner and I split up I let them know and thought - great, plain sailing from here.
Not true. I let them know the day he left. They told me I hadn't let them know till three days AFTER he left. I had to ring them to chase some promised paperwork you see. These three days, they later tell me, caused an overpayment of around £450. For 3 days I asked? Well, not actually true was the eventual answer I got - but due to the nature of the payments (two weeks in arrears and two weeks in advance) it meant that the payment I had received needed clawing back by them. Why didn't they say that in the first place? And why hadn't they noted the information the first time I told them? Their word against mine. So, I queried it and they said no dice. Pay us back!
In July 2007 they pay me an additional £700 odd quid days after my normal payment. I ring them the day I received the payment telling them that surely this MUST be a mistake. They say no it's not a mistake. I say, are you sure coz I don't want you asking for it back later. We are sure madam, you will not be asked for this back.
Christmas 2007 they ask for it back, and some more thrown on top for good measure.
I have pointed this out to them, they know I called them the day that payment went out but it seems to have made no difference whatsoever! My partner and I had a brief try at our relationship again but split after only a few months causing more changes. Guess what? You got it - apparently I owe them even more money. Some of it is a joint liability for myself and my ex. Have you contacted him I said. Yes madam we have contacted him. Today, they send a letter to him addressed here. I am guessing that they have NOT contacted him before now as they clearly do NOT have his address on their system. A bare-faced lie from someone? One of various over the years? Do they actually provide standardised training on their system to their staff? I tried about a month ago to dispute their claim again. I was told no dice, unless I had new information and that I had no right to appeal. Is that even legal????? So, I have decided, I am going to my MP in an attempt to kick up a fuss.
This is the second Christmas in a row they have asked me for a huge sum (last Christmas it was £1000, this year it's nearly £1500).
It concerns me that I am in this situation when all I have done is do what they have asked. The system is clearly not working. Although I have, and still do on occasion, feel close to despair, I am not going to lie down and take this. This system was set up to help us. Causing stress and increasing financial hardship is not help by anyone's definition.
I will update you as I progress my case. It's hard to find the strength sometimes as it really wears ya down (as I am sure you all know only too well!) but I'll be damned if I let this rubbish system get the better of me!