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Tax credit claimants owed money after Concentrix errors 'not getting full refunds'

An MP has written to HMRC to highlight the alleged problems

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Friday 30 September 2016 16:50 BST

Some people entitled to tax credit back-payments because of errors by HMRC and its private contractor Concentrix are only getting parts of the refunds they are entitled to, an MP has warned.

Labour MP Helen Goodman has written to the minister in charge of HMRC to highlight problems brought to her attention through her constituency office.

The Independent revealed earlier this month that Concentrix had sent nearly a million so-called “spam” letters to tax credit claimants in under two years, accusing them of providing incorrect information about their relationship status, working hours or childcare arrangements.

Claimants who could not provide complicated paperwork to provide their status within a short period of time had their tax credits stopped – often leaving them unable to make ends meet.

Errors highlighted in national news reports include people who Concentrix accused of being in a relationship with their parents – and therefore not being single – and similarly, people who Concentrix claimed were in a relationship with a dead person. Concentrix says it based the allegations it made on HMRC data.

In one case study passed to The Independent Ms Goodman highlighted the plight of one of her constituents, known as Ms Mortimer. Ms Mortimer, who has a disabled son and relies on tax credit payments, says she had jumped through Concentrix’s hoops but had her tax credits stopped anyway.

The MP said she had met other people with similar problems at her constituency surgery. Writing to the minister Jane Ellison, she said Ms Mortimer "is owed £1688.00 and only received £542.00 as a lump sum and the rest promised to be paid throughout the tax year".

"This episode was extremely stressful and damaging to the whole family. One of her children is disabled and must have a lactose and wheat free diet. It was, therefore, wholly inappropriate that we had no alternative but to direct her to a local foodbank. As you know, foodbanks are not set up to deal with complex medical needs."

Labour MP Helen Goodman has written to the HMRC minister (Rex)

Ms Goodman commented: “Constituents like Ms Mortimer have had their lives turned upside down by Concentrix and their pursuit of profit. At the very minimum, HMRC and Concentrix should repay the full amount they owe immediately."

“This whole affair has been disgraceful and the Minister should investigate how many people have been affected and are still owed money; how Concentrix was allowed to operate in this way and what will be done to prevent such scandals in the future.”

The Independent contracted Concentix for comment. The firm said it followed HMRC protocals and that HMRC was responsible for processing refunds.

“Concentrix was contractually obligated to contact individual tax credit claimants based on information provided by HMRC,” a spokesperson for the firm said.

“Concentrix would be penalised heavily if it failed to adhere to HMRC policies and procedures and we have operated professionally at all times and within the guidance set by HMRC. We recognise that the re-evaluation of individual tax credits claims can be difficult for all concerned.

“We adopt a rigorous process at every stage to ensure we manage this process responsibly.”

HMRC has said it will not renew Concentrix’s contract when it runs out. Jon Thompson, HMRC’s chief executive, said in a statement: “We want to reassure customers who have had their tax credits stopped that we will prioritise their cases, and make sure that they are processed as quickly as possible.

“While it’s right that we ensure that tax credits customers only receive the money to which they’re entitled, it is vital that those customers have a high level of service.

“That’s why we have decided not to extend our contract with Concentrix and HMRC is redeploying 150 staff so that customers can get through to advisers and resolve any issues about their claim.”

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