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About Tax Credit Casualties (TCC)

The Tax Credit Casualties are an organisation run by and for victims of tax credit overpayments and subsequent unfair recovery. We offer support to people receiving overpayment demands, to enable them to know their rights and dispute automatic recovery.  We also campaign and lobby cross-party MPs to support a full write-off of all non-fraudulent overpayments.  We are currently setting up an account to fundraise towards our work.  We are following up the possibility of pro bono legal representation with a class action, and currently have a high profile lawyer interested in supporting us.
 
We are building our membership, and have appeared in the Daily Mirror (12th September 2007) and a number of other publications, national and local.  We have the support of local media such as the Portsmouth News and some national magazines and newspapers (the Daily Mirror and Sunday Express), and have extensive material available for a national media campaign. We are currently sharing information with the BBC, ITV and a range of newspapers and magazines.  Members of our group have appeared in their local newspapers, on radio, on Law in Action (BBC Radio 4), on Sky TV, the Big Issue, Readers Digest, Contact a Family's newsletter, and more.

Our leader, Paula Dean, has offered casework support to hundreds of people across Britain and Europe, including British people settling overseas, including Spain, Italy and New Zealand. We have our own Dispute pack, to help those in dispute through the over-long, over-complicated process.
 
We are building cross-party support.  Our efforts have contributed to MPs signing EDMs 545 and 818, supporting further reform of tax credits, and a truly cross-party EDM is being planned.  We have innumerable supporters, including the former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary David Laws;  his successor Danny Alexander, and George Osborne, the Conservative Shadow Chancellor, among many others.
 
We are continuing our consultations with Human Rights lawyers over the legality of the tax credit system’s denial of access to independent reviewing of disputed cases, and their pre-emptive taking of victims to court before they have the opportunity to dispute recovery – in many cases under false pretences and with victims totally unaware of their rights.  We are supplying, with claimant consent, evidence of premature recovery to senior HMRC officials at the Tax Credit Policy Unit who remain adamant that court is only used as a last resort; we know that this is not so.

We have widely researched many interrelated issues and have first-hand and experiential evidence of malpractice by HMRC, who are clearly failing to meet any of the Ombudsman’s Standards for a quality service.  
 
We have already been active in uncovering a number of issues of public concern, including HMRC’s failure to properly record telephone calls (supposedly all recorded);  the extent of HMRC’s lack of public accountability regardless of their widespread malpractice;  the denial of our Human Rights through premature court action which forbids claimants any hearing;  the evasiveness of some government Ministers, and patchy support offered by MPs making pursuit of justice a real postcode lottery (Labour commonly the least helpful and supportive, with notable exceptions);  and a real reluctance on HMRC’s part to answer Freedom of Information questions – even from MPs.  

We have Tax Credit Office employees who are sympathetic to our cause, keen to whistleblow about current practices and share their own concerns about the system with the media.  One of them is talking to the media now. Several who are fearful of coming forward to whistleblow are offering us insights into the dispute process, which they know is fatally flawed and oppressive. We are increasingly hearing from whistleblowers who are working, or have worked for, HMRC about HMRC malpractice, insider fraud, overemphasis on targets at the expense of objectivity and thoroughness, and HMRC's desire to preserve what remains of its reputation by underemphasizing the extent of its various problems.  This is being investigated by the BBC and will soon be public knowledge.
 
We have made representations to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown (as Chancellor) and Dawn Primarolo (Paymaster General) of the previous administration, and we continue to lobby their successors:  Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, and Jane Kennedy (Financial Secretary to the Treasury). We have invited Jane Kennedy to meet with us, and many MPs and organisations have written in support of this consultation. We are in contact with the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and the Information Commissioner, and have complained to the Advertising Standards Agency over the 'Money With Your Name On It' campaign, which falsely implied that money was unconditionally given to claimants, and cost £9 million in advertising.  We are continuing to raise concerns with Richard Summersgill (Director, Customer Support. TCO), Tracy Gale (Tax Credit Policy Officer at HMRC) and the Adjudicator, among others.
 
We are forging links with other charities and welfare organizations with similar aims, especially Contact a Family, Single Parents Action Network, and Families Need Fathers.  
 
We have met with senior officials from HMRC to pursue our concerns, and will not let their apparently broken promise to prepare a report for Jane Kennedy go unchallenged.  Our main challenge will be to ensure this ‘report’ is now produced with no further delay and actually responded to, there being no shortage of previous reports which have not been matched with effective action by HMRC or this government - including the recent scathing Ombudsman's report, as yet unanswered by Parliament.
 
We now have Kevin Higgins from AdviceNI representing our group in the Tax Credit Consultation Group, raising questions for us, and presenting evidence we have prepared.  We liaise regularly with a welfare advisor from the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group. Other established groups have approached us for support in raising awareness of how to dispute recovery of an overpayment, and our input as lay advisors regarding tax credit problems and possible solutions is now being actively sought (GROW, local community groups, etc.).  
 
We have offers of free printing for leaflets for our campaign and conference, and as part of our independent cross-party approach have developed working relationships with various MPs, parliamentary candidates, and councillors from the mainstream parties who in turn have links with the media, human rights lawyers and senior politicians, as well as experience in charity work, community involvement, fundraising and PR.
 
Many MPs and organizations have set up links to our website, and more are doing so every day.
 
We are recommending to Tax Credit Casualties who are disputing the recovery of overpayments that they complain as well as dispute, raising awareness of the issues, by writing to HMRC and government ministers. This has been an effective approach even without a widespread media campaign, and we consider it no accident that there has been a huge surge in disputes coinciding with the founding of our group.
 
We have a wealth of campaign material, including a Campaign Pack, research, reports, analysis, experiential accounts, parodies of current practice, quotes and unique insights into the system. Our body of research and collective knowledge is growing all the time, evidenced by claimants’ own experiences of a commonly oppressive system (welcome when it works, but continually and spectacularly failing the very people it purports to help).
 
Our successes include:   providing evidence to the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group of lost call records (the Revenue having previously denied that some calls were not recorded) ahead of their exposure of this problem, and successfully lobbying HMRC and the government to deal more compassionately with flood victims who had overpayments (resulting in a government announcement of less harsh measures towards those losing homes and property to flooding). HMRC had not appreciated the Maternity Leave Trap before we pointed it out to them; poor HMRC advice has been leading to overpayments for mothers receiving Statutory Maternity Pay. As a result of our identifying this problem, HMRC are now aware of this issue and have promised us a response. As we have done with lost calls and floods, we intend to highlight further inherent injustices within the system, eg. Maternity Leave and the Civil Partnerships issue, which has plunged law-compliant same-sex couples into overpayment situations, and ensured sudden (rather than phased) income cuts.  We will pursue these until we have an appropriate response.
 
Several of our members have now won their overpayment recovery disputes.  One successfully managed to have a court case, which HMRC had adjourned for lack of evidence, cancelled altogether and HMRC admonished by the judge!
 

TCC Social Policy Objectives:

  1. An immediate, national amnesty for all cases involving Tax Credit Office error and flaws, independently judged. 

  1. An immediate, radical overhaul of the tax credit system, involving full consultation with claimants, and transparency.

  1. A fast-track compensation system to be set up, enabling tax credit casualties to receive basic, consolatory payments for distress and harm caused, with the option of claimants in exceptional distress claiming additional payments:  independent adjudicators to decide this. 

  1. A Judicial Review of the Tax Credit system, in court, of where responsibility lies, to set legal sanctions and standards.

TCC Member Objectives:

    1. To support each other, through the current appeals, complaints and challenge procedures, to be treated fairly and justly.

    1. To raise awareness of system-sanctioned abuse and overcome it.

 


Tax Credit Casualties (TCC) is a voluntary, unfunded, not for profit organisation run by members for members. We cannot take any responsibility for decisions made by HMRC, The Parliamentary Ombudsman, The Adjudicator, or any other organisation, regarding claimants cases. We offer free advice on how to dispute unfair overpayments based on our own experiences, the experiences of other claimants and HMRC guidelines.
Please note that we are not tax professionals and are working on a voluntary basis, unpaid, in our ‘free time’. Between us, we have a lot of experience and knowledge in this area, gained over the last few years of supporting victims and helping them fight for justice and their rights. Legislation, operating practices and individual cases change all the time, and while we aim to be professional and accurate at all times, please understand the circumstances we are working under and accept our support, guidance and information in the sprit it is offered; goodwill and camaraderie.

Our Standards
TCC was established to provide advice and guidance on disputing recovery of non-fraud tax credit overpayments and to lobby for fundamental change on the inbuilt flaws and inequalities of the tax credit system. Whilst TCC provide guidance and information on how to handle disputes and even provide an advocacy service in some instances, neither TCC as an organisation not any participating members are responsible or liable for outcomes of disputes which remain wholly the remit of HMRC, the Adjudicator and/or the Parliamentary Ombudsman, as appropriate and dependent on the stage of dispute. TCC operate in a professional manner and endeavour to give accurate and appropriate advice based on information provided by members. TCC endeavour to respond to members as quickly and efficiently as possible, given the voluntary nature of the organisation and limited resources available. TCC is an inclusive organisation and will treat all members in a fair and equitable manner.

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