Woman has benefits stopped because taxman believes she is having an affair - with the post office

HMRC mistakes the name of Debbie Balandis's local post office on her bank statement for a live-in partner 

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The Independent Online

A single mother has had her benefits stopped - because the taxman believes she is in a relationship with her local corner shop. 

Debbie Balandis, 40, from Glasgow, received a letter from HMRC to say they were stopping her £140-a-week child tax credits because they had become aware of her new relationship with a "Martin McColl", after his name appeared on her bank statement. 

Martin McColl is the trading name of RS McColl - the local corner shop and post office where Ms Balandis collects her benefits. 

The mother of two immediately called HMRC to explain the mix-up, but the tax body said she had to prove Martin McColl was not her live-in lover before she could have her benefits reinstated.

She told the Scottish Daily Record: "I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter to say my payments were being stopped so I called them up to see what the mix-up had been.

"I expected it to be sorted over the phone but instead I was told they knew I had a new partner."

Ms Balandis, who said she had not been in a relationship for 10 years, was shocked when they asked her who Mr McColl was and did not believe her when she tried to explain the situation. 

She said she had to spend £19 on a lengthy telephone call while waiting to speak to someone, which she could not afford as she lives on £80 in jobseeker's allowance each fortnight, and they had still cut her off. 

Ms Balandis, who uses the money to support her disabled 13-year-old son, said: "I can’t believe the way they treated me – they made the mistake but I’m the one left to suffer.

"My son has disabilities and he lives for his weekly horse-riding which really helps him. Now I have to disappoint him and say I can’t pay for it.   

"HMRC say I’ve to write to them again but I’m afraid if I get something wrong it will hold up the process even longer."

HMRC say I’ve to write to them again but I’m afraid if I get something wrong it will hold up the process even longer

Debbie Balandis

It comes as the Department of Work and Pensions has come under renewed criticism after it was revealed that appeals against "fit to work" assessments have been more successful than ever before.

Between December 2014 and June 2015, 53 per cent of all appeals against “fit to work” decisions were  overturned. 

Sanctions were previously criticised by the Labour MP for Oldham, Debbie Abrahams, who said her constituent was sanctioned for not completing a Employment and Support Allowance assessment because he had a heart attack during the meeting.

HMRC said it did not comment on individual taxpayer's circumstances but that if they have "reason to believe" someone's situation has changed, they will write to them and allow 30 days for a reply. If they do not receive a response, payments are suspended until the person provides the requested information.

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