The Tax Credit Deadline is Getting Nearer

In a previous article, we spoke about whether or not you are eligible to receive child -tax credits. If you are a parent that does receive child tax credits, you will know that every April your situation is assessed and your claim is renewed for the following year. Many recipients will simply get an overview of what they receive and their income will carry on as normal. However, some need to fill out the form they receive and send it back (this is usually if your situation has changed and you are now entitled to a smaller or larger amount of money), and the deadline is fast approaching. Unfortunately, missing the deadline can result in your payments stopping altogether as the DWP don’t have your up to date details. According to HMRC, by the end of this month (31st July) around 3 million claimants will need to have renewed their child tax credits. Not leaving your renewal until the last minute is beneficial because not only will your payments be stopped, you will also be asked to pay back the money you have received since April as there will be no proof that you are lawfully entitled to claim it. Person renewing child tax credits

How do I renew my credits?

If you have left until now to renew when you are required to, don’t worry it can be quickly and easily done. Changes in circumstances that need to be reported to HMRC include changes to employment eg working hours or income and a change in your childcare costs. The easiest way to report these is to do it online via Gov.UK, or if you have a smartphone HMRC have a handy new app, which is really simple and convenient to use. The benefits you receive will differ depending on your financial situation so it is important that you give the right information, so as not to miss out on the benefits you deserve. In the same sense, if you accidentally receive too many without knowing, you will be expected to pay this back, which may understandably have a strain on your finances. As mentioned before, the child tax credit pack you receive in April will either require you to respond or just require you to ensure all the information HMRC has for you in correct. If your letter features the words ‘reply now’ then it means your information requires updating, before the 31st July. If it has the words ‘check now’ you will just need to check over the form to see if any misinformation has been printed, and if this is the case, inform HMRC straight away.

HMRC are encouraging people to renew their credits online as it is quick and convenient. However, if you are having any problems with your online form, then please do contact HMRC via the contact number. There is also a webchat facility that is available from HMRC for any minor issues. The new online renewal system is understandably a godsend to many who have waited in endless phone-line queues in the past as people attempt to renew before the deadline.

FURTHER delays to Universal Credit

Ahh Universal Credit, the two elusive words filled with such promise, yet, (at the moment) delivering so little. Notorious for its constant delays, we are sorry to report that the Universal Credit switch has been pushed back even further as ministers announced even more delays just yesterday. The switch has already started to take place, but an at an extremely slow rate, with many people still subject to the old system. The full roll out is now not expected to take place until March 2022, this will mean the new date will be an extension of a year from the previous date in place and no less than eleven years since the switch was originally announced. Many people want to know why. job centre issues universal credit

What is it?

Universal Credit, which was originally set to be scheduled in 2017, is the government’s aim to roll what is currently six different types of benefits into one, so claimants will receive one monthly payment of whatever they are entitled to. You are entitled to Universal Credit if you are either on a low-income or out of work completely. If you receive benefits such as Job-Seeker’s Allowance or Child Tax Credits then if you haven’t already, you will be switched over to receiving Universal Credits sometime in the near future (we hope). Rather than weekly payments, the new system will act like a salary, being paid into the recipient’s bank account. Rather than switching those over that are used to receiving a weekly payment of various different benefits, Universal Credit has been focusing on those that are newly unemployed and new to receiving benefits. Universal Credit will also replace Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. There are many reasons that the government has chosen to (slowly) transition over to Universal Credit, one being that it generally makes more sense. Many different payments can become complicated and confusing and whilst Universal Credit is causing slight chaos at the moment, once the switch is complete, things will be simpler.

Universal credit is also designed to help with rent payments, the money will be calculated for you and included in your monthly payment where you will then be required to pay the landlord directly, helping to prevent missed payments and evictions. Anybody that lives with a partner who is also eligible will receive one big monthly payment, where you can manage it accordingly. By visiting one of the many sites online you can get an estimate of how much Universal Credit you are eligible for and how it differs from what you are currently receiving. You can make your claim via the universal Credit website.

waiting for universal creditWhy is it taking so long?

With so many people in the UK receiving financial support, there is an awful lot of work to do to ensure the turnover is a success. Combine millions of people, all with different details, with complicated computer systems and you may just be able to get an understanding of the sheer scale of the multi-billion pound project. This has not stopped an unimpressed cabinet questioning ministers on why the switch is taking so long, with people unsure on how much monthly money they are entitled to receive and when they will begin receiving it. Recently, a ministerial statement has revealed a revised schedule of the proceedings, which is in conjunction with the changes made to the 2015 summer budget, which included the controversial move of only allowing child tax credits for the first two children of a family. As it stands, Universal Credit has 279, 000 claimants. Despite MP’s accusing that the project could have been completed quicker, permanent DWP secretary Robert Devereux has claimed that the switch is complex and probably the biggest project the DWP has undertaken. Another movement delaying procedures was the emergency brake that was going to be put into place on the benefits that migrants were receiving. This was part of David Cameron’s EU negotiations and since the UK has now opted to leave the EU, these are no longer in place. The government has also been urged to tweak the programme through concerns that it is going to fare hard on low-income and unemployed families. The pressure to ensure that the system fits with today’s climate is also delaying the process.

When it eventually happens, there are many in favour for Universal credit, supporting those that need it at an affordable cost for the tax payer. The constant tweaks that are ongoing to the system are all in the name of improvements so as not to disappoint people further after many cuts introduced by ex-chancellor George Osbourne. With a complete cabinet overhaul it could also be possible that proceedings were affected by not only complex IT systems but also management failings. Will the development now stay on track and will the 6m people in need of Universal Credit, have it by 2022?



Asylum Seeker Escapes Jail, Despite Benefit Fraud

The case of benefit fraudster Linda Okungbowa is a complicated one, but thankfully one with a happy ending. Lisa arrived in the UK in 2004 after she was brought over by traffickers, hoping to start work in the UK as a nurse. The traffickers demandedpayment for helping her begin a new life in the UK and so Lisa had no choice but to falsely claim benefits under a fake name to give them the money they demanded. Although jailed for 8 months in 2011 for claiming over £70, 000 worth of benefits illegally, whilst working under a fake name, Linda has been spared jail for a second time in an ‘amazing act of mercy.’ The 36-year-old mother of three came to Britain innocently thinking she would be given the opportunity to train as a doctor, with every intention of making an honest living. Instead, she became trapped in a cycle of debt that she owed to criminals, and turned to desperate measures for a way out.

Sick criminals continued to increase the amount that Okungbowa owed to them for getting her over to the UK, and even began to threaten her family back in Nigeria, so benefit fraud seemed like her only option. The judge took this into consideration when deciding to waiver her prison sentence, and was also pleased to note that there was little chance of her falling back into further crime due to finding the support of Sheffield churchgoers. The Sheffield community have offered Linda the support she needs to get onto the straight and narrow and avoid the people that once took advantage of her position. Despite working many jobs to try and afford the ever increasing re-payments she owed, the family became more and more destitute, with her and her children having to walk the 12 mile trip to school due to not being able to afford bus fare. The normal prison sentence for such severe benefit fraud was suspended, as the judge heard of Linda’s circumstances. Amongst the benefits, Okungbowa had falsely claimed £26, 201. 56 in working and child tax credits to see her family through.

Linda knew that several jobs were her only way of paying what she owed, and worked in different care jobs. She took on the identity of a female friend in London and asked if the money could be paid into her bank account, who then transferred her wages to Linda, she told the company she could not provide her own bank details due to being in a significant amount of debt and she needed to survive on her wages. As a result the DWP were unaware of her employment. With the support from the local community, Linda Okungbowa now has the trust of the court that she is not going to re-offend and instead is going to turn her life around. She was influenced badly by people she came into contact with, but now she has the right kind of support to get on track. Linda’s sentence has been suspended and she will be tried again in court.