Parliament: Brown to extend tax credits scheme to childless couples

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GORDON BROWN was accused of wasting taxpayers' money yesterday after he launched a major advertising campaign to publicise the Government's flagship working families tax credit (WFTC).

The Chancellor also announced plans to extend the scheme to couples without children as part of the Government's fight against poverty.

The measure, which guarantees a minimum weekly take-home pay of pounds 200 for all families with someone in work, is a key element in Mr Brown's drive to tailor the benefit and tax systems so that "work pays".

Mr Brown said yesterday that the next step was to: "extend the principle of the WFTC and our long-term aim is an employment tax credit, paid through the wage packet, which would be available to households without children as well as households with children".

But Francis Maude, the shadow Chancellor, claimed during question time it was a "scandal" that the system of family credit was being abolished. He said Mr Brown's plans had been condemned by the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses for "turning employers into unpaid benefit offices" by paying the credit through the wage packet.

While low-paid families claim their top-up benefits through the Department of Social Security under the family credit, the WFTC - to be introduced in October - will be administered through the Inland Revenue.

Mr Brown insisted that the Government was "cutting the poverty trap" and, on average, families would gain pounds 24 a week under the new tax credit.

Earlier, at a lunch for regional newspaper executives, Mr Brown said the WFTC would be "one of the main battlegrounds in the next election". He said a pounds 12m campaign would be launched in September "to tell people about the WFTC and ensure they receive what they are entitled to".