Taxman hounds the vulnerable for debts they don’t owe as nearly nine out of ten people who take their case to arbitration win

Thousands of vulnerable people are being pursued for tax debts they shouldn’t have to pay and are having legitimate complaints fobbed off by the taxman, Money Mail can reveal.


A bombshell independent report by the influential Adjudicator’s Office accuses HM Revenue & Customs of mistreating elderly and vulnerable taxpayers and failing to take account of their circumstances.

It found that nearly nine out of ten people who take their case to arbitration win.

Often these disputes have dragged on for months as the taxpayer struggles to get their problem taken seriously.

n a damning assessment, the report by the Adjudicator – who acts as a referee looking into complaints against HMRC – accuses officials of having a ‘limited appetite for reflection and learning from their interaction from customers’.

Over the 12 months to March 31, the Adjudicator received more than 11,600 enquiries from the public about rotten treatment at the hands of HMRC, the Insolvency Service and the Valuation Office Agency – though the taxman generated the overwhelming majority of these.

For the Adjudicator to intervene in a case, the taxpayer has to have hit a dead-end with HMRC.

In total, the Adjudicator resolved 1,808 complaints about HMRC – of these, 1,543, or a staggering 85 per cent, were settled in the consumer’s favour.

Robin Williamson, director of the charity Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, says: ‘Those who’ve persevered to take their case to the Adjudicator have already been through the mill, refused to give up and kept on at HMRC with their complaint.

‘Far too many will have given up or not even known they can take their complaint beyond tax officials to a watchdog. They’ll just have written off the money.’

In total, the taxman was ordered to pay out £244,000 for poor complaint handling and triggering worry and stress. Overall, its errors led to £2.9million of tax it claimed was owed being written off.

In her report, Adjudicator Judy Clements says: ‘I’m critical of the number of complaints where HMRC staff failed to consider the circumstances of their vulnerable customers – especially where [they] had the opportunity to exercise discretion.’

She also highlighted a number of particularly worrying cases where HMRC had failed to act fairly. In one example, Ms A, who suffered from severe dyslexia, had asked for documents to be sent in a larger print size.

This took a while to create, so she ended up receiving a letter on February 10 relating to a self-assessment tax return, which requested she pay her bill by January 31.

She phoned HMRC to say the letter was too late and no payslip to settle her debt to the Revenue was enclosed.

Her payment deadline was extended, but the payslip arrived too late for her to meet the new deadline, so she ended up being hit with interest and penalties.

The Adjudicator was critical of the Revenue for its lack of understanding of Ms A’s personal circumstances.

In another case, Mr B complained because HMRC had failed to update his tax code – as a result, he underpaid tax. He filed a request to have this debt written off using a legal waiver called Extra Statutory Concession A19.

HMRC turned this down, but the Adjudicator ruled that Mr B’s debt should be written off. This is just the latest evidence of faltering customer service at HMRC.

In September, a report from Citizens Advice found thousands of people were waiting an average of 47 minutes to get their calls answered. The National Audit Office also recently criticised HMRC for answering too few calls inside five minutes.

Earlier this year, the Revenue was forced to admit its behaviour ‘was not good enough’. Its own figures revealed how only 72 per cent of calls were answered in the 2014-15 tax year — below its 80 per cent target.

And Money Mail has frequently highlighted the fiasco faced by pensioners who try to claim the new Married Couple’s Allowance.

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#bedroom-tax, #debt, #tax, #tax-credit, #tax-credits, #taxing

Brutality of the Bedroom Tax exposed in disgraceful images of disabled Merseyside man driven from home



#bedroom-tax, #disability, #disabled, #dla, #esa, #pip, #spare-room-subsidy


A ‘BEDROOM TAX victim’ – saved from eviction in May by campaigners who surrounded his house with the bailiffs due – says he has now been effectively driven out of his 40-year-old home.

The case of unemployed Coventry man Archie Millar has concluded with him moving to Nuneaton where he says there is a better chance of a job and training.

Campaigners say the fight against the so-called Bedroom Tax goes on, and housing association landlord Whitefriars has offered to help resolve similar cases in future.

The 55-year-old had faced eviction from his home in St Margaret Road, Stoke, Coventry, after his mother died and he got into rent arrears from losing benefits from the Bedroom Tax, also known as the coalition government’s ‘spare bedroom subsidy’.

The policy reduced Housing Benefits to claimants deemed to have an extra room, or rooms, they did not need.

Mr Millar lost £25 of his £72-a-week Housing Benefit payments – as he was deemed to have two ‘spare rooms’ – and he was unable to pay all his rent.

His old family home has now been repossessed by Whitefriars after he racked up debts of more than £1,000 to the housing association.

Mr Millar says he is now set to start a computer training course and has registered on the Nuneaton and Bedworth housing list, while temporariliy staying with a friend.

He said: “Whitefriars did nothing for me, but I don’t blame them, I blame David Cameron and the government.

“I feel I was driven out of my home of 43 years.”

John Boadle, of campaign group Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax, whose protest at Archie’s home was seen by millions on TV and viral internet videos, said: “If Archie was determined to stay in his home of 40 years, we would have defended him till the cows come home.

“But the protest did give him space to find an alternative and he’s chosen to move on, fair enough.

“We have shown that peaceful direct action does work and we’ll do the same again if necessary.

“We’ve had a very positive response from people and there’s definitely a mood of resistance to austerity.

“Which is good because misery is in store for many if we don’t fight back.”

Mr Boadle said he and Mr Millar met with Whitefriars representatives after the attempted eviction, and it offered concessions including finding a smaller place for him, rather than him having to bid online for vacant properties in the usual way.

Whitefriars offered a £600 payment to ease his move, and said they would consider overlooking plumbing work in the house which they would normally expect the tenant to carry out before being transferred.

Archie later decided to move out of Coventry.

Conservatives in government claimed the policy was meant to encourage social housing tenants living in properties suddenly deemed too big for them to move to smaller properties – which would in turn free up larger social homes for larger families who need them.

Housing charities say that plan failed, not least because of a chronic shortage of larger social homes, and political opponents labelled the policy ‘cruel’ and ‘vindictive’.

Mr Boadle said anyone threatened with eviction due to cuts, or who wants to join the campaign, should get in touch via Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax on Facebook.

The above article is from Click here for original.

#bedroom-tax, #eviction, #spare-room-subsidy

Bedroom tax protesters campaign at the Senedd

Tenants descended on the Senedd yesterday to launch the first of a series of lobbies in protest against the Bedroom Tax.

The group Cardiff and South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax is asking the Welsh Government to negate the effects of the tax for everyone like it has been done in Scotland.

Residents from around south Wales lobbied against what is officially called the Spare Room Subsidy, aiming to raise awareness among ministers and AMs seeking re-election in 2016 in an event named ‘We Want What the Scots Have: Negate the Bedroom Tax’.

The group of tenants is campaigning for the Welsh government to help residents out who are facing hardship because of the tax and are calling for the Welsh government to cushion the blow from Westminster cuts by introducing a much bigger pot of discretionary housing payment.

The group said they want to persuade ministers from all parties seeking re-election next May to pledge to take a closer look at the discretionary housing payment and how it is allocated.

Jamie Insole, a spokesperson for Cardiff Against the Bedroom Tax, said: “Across Wales tenants are receiving notice that their rent will rise by anything up to three and a half per cent above inflation. For the 32,000 or so left to pay the bedroom tax, this might very well come as the final straw.”

Guy Watts, a 52-year-old former Royal Navy serviceman and decorator, lives in a three-bedroom house with his partner, Rachel, and eight-year-old daughter, Daisy, in Llantwit Major.

He has been paying the Bedroom Tax for the last 18 months after he started to receive housing benefit after he developed multiple sclerosis.

He estimated 14 per cent of his benefit is taken up each week because of the Bedroom Tax – around £700 a year.

But he wants to spend that money on a functional electrical stimulation device, something he has been told is not available on the NHS. The battery-operated device would be fixed to Guy’s leg and use electrical currents to activate nerves so he could move his leg more easily.

But the device costs £1,300 a year just to hire and maintain – and Guy can’t afford it.

He said: “If I didn’t pay the Bedroom Tax, that’s what I would spend the money on.

“Years ago the Bedroom Tax wasn’t around so it wasn’t a problem.

“There aren’t the properties around for them to downsize into. They are expected to rent the room to out to a lodger.

“If I had a short-term illness and I was able to work again it wouldn’t be a problem. I think they should get rid of it altogether for people who haven’t got the way to return to work to make up the extra money.

Sue Leader, a tenant in Ely and branch officer of Unite Community, added: “The idea that the Assembly can gently implement Tory cuts has backfired miserably. To many, it appears that the AMs and councillors have simply withdrawn to their lofty towers. In Ely, Gurnos, Pwll and hundreds of other estates, there is now anger without hope.

“Since the introduction of the tax, we’ve seen a large increase in empty three-bedroom properties on the estate. We’ve lost neighbours. There’s no stability or continuity any longer. Simple working class pleasures are being taken away because people’s can’t afford them.

Gillian Jones, a member of Caerphilly Against the Bedroom Tax, said: “I’ve lived in my house in Bargoed for 26 years and the only way out for me was to move six miles up the valley away from everything I’ve known.

“The practice of seeking to squeeze the tenant as a single unfixed point must now end. Tenants will not be squeezed, nor will their communities sit by and allow them to be evicted simply because they cannot pay money that they do not have or ‘downsize’ to properties that do not exist.

“In Scotland, a social movement has forced their government to take account of the people’s will. Unsurprisingly, nobody is currently forced to pay the Bedroom Tax. With the approach of the 2016 Assembly elections, Welsh Labour is approaching a crossroads. We encourage our representatives to stand by the most vulnerable in the radical Welsh tradition. In short, tenants want what the Scots have got!”

Nina Langrish, from TPAS Cymru (Tenant Participation Advisory Service), said: “We could end up in a situation where tenants will have to find the shortfall themselves which means that people are going to get into huge arrears, abandon their properties and could be homeless.

“There are not the one and two-bedroom properties to move into.

“The whole thing is that it’s making the people who are the poorest in society pay for the mega economic problems that were caused by the wealthy and rich bankers.”

The above article is from Wales Online. Find the original here.

#bedroom-tax, #protest, #protests, #spare-room-subsidy

Benefit changes damaging fathers’ relationships with children, charities claim

It is feared that fathers who live apart will increasingly be unable to have their child to stay overnight, according to Barnardo’s, Working With Men and the Young Dads Council.

They point out that since 2012 single people under the age of 35 have mainly been restricted to claiming benefits for a single room in a shared house – and there has been no exemption for an estimated 10,000 non-resident parents.

It means that children are forced to share bathrooms with strangers if they want to stay overnight.

They also claim that new plans will see housing benefit entirely removed from many people under 21 – potentially affecting 118,000 young people.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said young single fathers face “a constant struggle” to keep contact with children.

He said: “So it’s deeply concerning that the Government plans to scupper their ability to secure even a room to spend time alone with their child, with benefits changes.

“The first few years of life are crucial to cementing the bond between parents and children, and the Government should be doing its utmost to encourage contact between young dads and their children at this time.”

The charities are calling on the Government to urgently review benefit rules to help parents of all ages. They should start by exempting all parents, regardless of whether their children live with them full time or not, from plans to cut housing benefits for young people, the charities argue.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “There is no evidence to back up these claims.

[Source- ITV News]

#bedroom-tax, #benefit-changes, #spare-room-subsidy, #wefare-reform