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Failure to inform Tax credit of my reduced childcare fees

(45 Posts)
dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 11:37:44

I am feeling desperate and would welcome any advice from anyone who has been in a similar situation to me or anyone who works for the tax credit system.

I received a letter today from Tax Credits saying that my award has been selected for review as the information they hold about my childcare costs conflicts with the information they have obtained. This is totally my fault as I have failed to inform them about my change in childcare arrangements; this was not done intentionally, it is down to my total lack of organisational skills and ability to prioratise!!

I Returned to work in April 2011 on a supply basis. Because my work was not regular, some weeks I would have work, some weeks I wouldn't, I has to give an average estimate of my child care cost, which I did. At the time, 2 of my children went to after school club and my youngest child went to nursery. I provided them with these details.

In September 2011, my 2 older children stopped going to after school club and my other child continued to go to nursery. In Januray 2012, my child obtained the nursery grant, so I no longer had to pay the fees.

Although I tried to call tax credits on a number of occasions to inform them of all these changes, I never got through at the times I called and even though I kept meaning to try and phone them to update them and it was always in the back of my mind, I eventually forgot. I know this sounds like a total excuse, but it is the truth, it is all down to a lack of organisation on my part. As a result I have been overpaid on my childcare fees.

I know I will have to repay the overpayments, but will I be prosecuted for failing to inform them of my changes? It says in the letter that any over payments will have to be repaid and in some circumstances a penalty will be charged. It then says that 'if we supsect you may have committed a criminal offence, we may carry out a criminal investigation, which could lead to prosecution'

I am beside myself with worry and didn't sleep at all last night. I know I am in the wrong for failing to be organised and informing them in a change of my circumstances, but I am an honest person, just a totally disorganised person!! How do they decide whether its criminal or not? I feel sick. There is no way I would intentially defraud the sysyem; I wouldn't risk loosing my children or loosing my career. Have any of you out there been in the same situation and if so, what was the outcome? I would appreciate any replies....

Annianni Fri 02-Nov-12 11:49:12

I got overpaid for the childcare element, and I pay them it back, £50 a month.

If you can check your old phone bills, and tell them the dates and times that you rang, but didn't get through, that would go in your favour.

Hth

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 11:55:22

Unfortunately I'm not that organised Annianni. I don't have my own phone bills and I didn't write down the dates I tried to call. Did they send you the same letter they have sent me?

Annianni Fri 02-Nov-12 12:09:15

I didn't get any scary letters, I said I'd tried ringing several times, and could tell them the dates.

I didn't do it on purpose, but I was working part-time and was a single parent and I used to hate being on hold for 30 minutes at a time, waiting to speak to someone.

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 12:13:09

How many months were you being overpaid before you managed to contact them?

Annianni Fri 02-Nov-12 12:19:01

It was a few, but not that many.

Have you rung them?
It would look better for you, if you contact them, explain the situation etc and ask how much needs repaying.

Rather than them having to chase you, iykwim.

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 12:26:23

Yes, I have already phoned them and told them that I am completely responsible for not informing them and that it wasn't intentional, just one of those things that I had on my 'to do list' that I never got round to. I feel terrible, I am an honest person and anyone who knows me knows that I wouldn't intentionally defraud the system; I am just completely disorganised. I am a teacher too, so there is no way I would risk ruining my career. I just hope they believe me- feel sick with worry, can't concentrate on anything else!!!

PlaySchool Fri 02-Nov-12 12:32:38

Hopefully, the fact that you have come clean now and told them that it was your fault for not persisting in your attempts to tell them, will mean that they will just make you pay it back.
It is ridiculously hard to contact Tax Credits - you cannot write or email and you can be waiting on the phone for ages. Surely, they need to take some responsibility for this fact.
I don't know though as I am no expert!
Good luck!!!

Annianni Fri 02-Nov-12 12:32:44

I know you said that you didn't have your phone bills, but could you not get them online, or copies?

I knew i'd rung them on my mobile, so it was easy to check the dates.

I had an over payment to pay back anyway, due to their cock up.
So it was put together with that.

noisytoys Fri 02-Nov-12 12:37:42

You will have to pay it back that is all. And it will be a very small amount a week I wouldn't worry. Through their error I am paying back £10 a week til forever til £5900 of their error is paid back

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 13:20:45

I hope you're right noisytoys. I am imagining worse case scenario of being interviewed in a police cell and being carted off to jail!!!!! Like i say, i am making no excuses, its my own downright stupidity and not prioraitising making the phone call. I don't know about anyone else on here, but i have to psyche myself up toto make the call ad it takes do long and then half yr time you have to deal with people who contradict what you've been told by someone else!!! Important am not making excuses, but it would brought so much easier if we voulf email.

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 13:22:47

Do you know that this is all that will happen from personal experience Preschool? Have you or anyone you know been in similar circumstances?

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 13:23:39

I will try Annianni, thank you for your time responding to my crisis!!!!!

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 17:01:50

Is there anyone else out there who has found themselves in similar circumstances? What was the outcome?

RedHelenB Fri 02-Nov-12 17:30:29

How many hours a week were you averaging when on supply? I ended up with an overpayment because for one part of a year it did not average 16 hours so I had a WTC & childcare overpayment of about 4000 I think. They just looked through my diaries of days work and & then worked it all out for me & I pay it back through current tax credits.

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 18:04:28

Thanks for responding RedHelenB. It's a bloomen nightmare working on supply and working out childcare costs isn't it??!!! I am generally doing 2 1/2 days, so it's over the 16 hours, but then I have periods where I haven't worked 16 hours a week. Do they just take the average for the month, or do they take the average over the year? Did you get a letter from them. I can not believe I have made such a balls up by being so stupid and disorganised and forgetting to inform them of my changes. I honestly feel like a criminal and I am just imagining them giving me a criminal record. I am a teacher for goodness sake I would never knowingly defraud the system but I know I am totally disorganised and at total fault by failing to inform them of my changes in circumstances. If I get a criminal record I will never be able to teach again.....I feel so ashamed of my stupidity

elvisola Fri 02-Nov-12 18:23:56

I had a similar problem a couple of years ago and owe £1000's in overpayment - my fault for not checking review forms properly, theirs for not logging changes at time of call.

I shat myself, called them and explained how it had happened and that I would obviously pay it back. I also read the hmrc guide for repayments which is reassuring.

I think it only goes to criminal prosecution when you have been falsifying information I.e annual review forms or fake childcare invoices.

Mine is taken off of my current award, but you can pay a small amount every month if you negotiate with them.

My advice is to be upfront and co-operative.

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 18:53:00

Did you get the threatening letter before you realised or did you realised yourself?if i had realised myself it wouldn't have been so bad, but i didn't realise untilthe letter came. I feel like i have been caught out ad a criminal. I always do my reviews on the phone and i can't even remember anyone asking about my child care arrangements, just about our annual earnings.....i feel sick!!!

elvisola Fri 02-Nov-12 19:04:34

I got a letter saying it was being referred to the compliance team for review. It was only when I got all the paperwork out that I realised what had happened. I had no phone records, no idea even what month I had called them and I was sure I was going to be investigated for fraud.

I called straight away, explained my situation and didn't hear about it again until my next renewal where the overpayment was noted on the form along with the (small) reduction in my monthly payment to pay it back.

It was very anti climatic given that I thought I might go to prison but I am still mortified that I made the mistake and am trying to claim all my PPI so I can pay it back.

There was a thread on here a few months ago about a woman who had claimed for years that she was a single parent when she actually lived with her dp. As far as I remember she just had to pay some of it back shock

I think it's vanishingly unlikely that you will be prosecuted. You might get a penalty, but probably will just have to repay the extra.

dragonfly75 Fri 02-Nov-12 19:14:10

That's exactly how I feel Elvisola. I am already imagining being convicted of fraud, saying goodbye to my children and being carted off to prison!!! I phoned straight away to hold my hands up and say that it was all my fault for not keeping them informed of my changes in childcare arrangements and childcare price reductions. I tell you what, I don't mind a bloomen anti-climax, the way I feel at the minute is unbearable......Why did they review you, were you claiming for childcare when you were no longer using it?

elvisola Fri 02-Nov-12 19:18:11

I had actually called to say that I wouldn't be using childcare any more a week or so before and then the letter came. I think they are generated randomly though.

I forgot to tell them when ds turned 3 and received his government funding. It was only about 3 months. I sent a letter with the information I requested. They just recalculated my award which came out as overpaid about £300 and I paid them it back.

elvisola Fri 02-Nov-12 19:21:05

The change was that I had dropped my childcare costs from full time to part time hours but when I called to tell them it wasn't put on the system correctly. They admitted it but because I hadn't picked it up at review I still have to pay it back. Fair enough I suppose as all thier literature says that we are responsible for checking detailsblush

LynetteScavo Fri 02-Nov-12 19:27:59

I was overpaid - DS didn't always go to after school club (was collected by granny, or went to friends for tea, and I also only had to pay 50% when he was off ill ), so after school club only charged 50% for those days and also his childcare was cheaper than DD's, as they knocked 20% off as he was the 2nd sibling.......

But anyway, they asked for all receipts for the year, it transpired I had been over paid, and now I am paid very little working tax credits, as they are effectively taking the money back. I have not been arrested or prosecuted, I am just receiving less tax credits this year than I would have done.

It's not worth them prosecuting you, if they can just re-claim it from working tax credits you are now owed.

lisaro Fri 02-Nov-12 19:34:53

But you must have known you were being overpaid. Did you spend it or put it to one side? If you knew and spent it then I have absolutely no sympathy.

Bilbobagginstummy Fri 02-Nov-12 19:43:53

This page has the broad criteria for tax credit prosecutions (at the bottom):
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/things-go-wrong/complaints-appeals/fraud.htm

Forgetting to tell them about a change in circumstances isn't on the list.
It's on the list for getting charged a civil penalty, but you probably think that's good news in your current state of mind:
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/things-go-wrong/complaints-appeals/penalties.htm

Bilbobagginstummy Fri 02-Nov-12 19:44:36

With working links blush

This page has the broad criteria for tax credit prosecutions (at the bottom):
www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/things-go-wrong/complaints-appeals/fraud.htm

Forgetting to tell them about a change in circumstances isn't on the list.
It's on the list for getting charged a civil penalty, but you probably think that's good news in your current state of mind:
www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/things-go-wrong/complaints-appeals/penalties.htm

mignonette Fri 02-Nov-12 19:50:04

Dragonfly

Please try not to worry- you won't be prosecuted. They even state on the forms that if repayment causes hardship, they'll delay that too.

I have had to repay in the past because it is quite hard to estimate my income exactly being that I work a lot of on calls/ overtime etc as a senior RMN and DH is self employed. It took me a year to sort it out....

You will not be prosecuted for innocent mismanagement.

RedHelenB Fri 02-Nov-12 20:20:02

They did a review & tbh I haven't a clue how they worked out the hours!! They wanted all my bank statements, proof I was a single parent, childcare receipts the lot! Luckily I had marked down in my diary the days I worked but some weeks I did none & others 4 days.

dragonfly75 Sat 03-Nov-12 21:57:37

Lisaro, I am not expecting sympathy I have come onto this site to get advice off other people who have found themselves to be in the same situation. Luckily, most of the mums on this site are supportive and non-judgemental-what the site is all about.

Thank you so much Billbobagginstummy, this is a great link and extremenly helpful. I really appreciate your time in posting it on for me.

Mignonette, thank you too for your kind words.

RedHelenB-I have put some of the days I have worked in my diary, but not all of them, especially the ones when I get called on the morning last minute to go in.

I know one thing for sure, I will certainly be more organised from now on! I have spent the whole day tearing the house apart looking for payslips, invoices from nursery etc. If I was more organised, non of this would have happened!!!

Thanks again to the majority of you on here for you advice and supportve words, it means a lot.

dragonfly75 Sat 03-Nov-12 22:01:56

MrsMiniversCharlady, I hope so. After reading everyone's comments and the links they have put on for me I do feel more reassured. Thanks for commenting.

dragonfly75 Sat 03-Nov-12 22:03:25

Thanks gregssausagerolls, Fingers crossed it will work itself out

dragonfly75 Sat 03-Nov-12 22:06:23

Thanks for sharing your situation LynetteScavo, yours sounds a little bit similar to mine. Hopefully my situation will work out. I appreciate your comments.

EdithWeston Sat 03-Nov-12 22:07:58

Lots of people make mistakes. They only prosecute if they suspect deliberate fraud.

Fess up, agree a repayment schedule and the worst you'll get is a penalty charge, and if you're lucky not even that.

And the nursery will have your invoices even if you can't find them. Ask for duplicates, or a letter on headed paper stating their charges for the relevant period.

mignonette Sat 03-Nov-12 22:09:27

I didn't get a penalty charge despite late notification. I don't know of anybody who has amongst the people I know who have had to repay due to unpredictable earnings.

Athendof Sat 03-Nov-12 22:17:17

I had something similar, sent Ds to another child care supplier during the holidays and couldn't get through in the phone as it was at a time of the renewals. As I was still spending the same amount I thoughtit would be fine. It wasn't so I contacted every single provider I used and ask them for exact details if amounts paid, it turned out I had paid more than I reported to TC, i sent them all the details so they could see all the money had been used to pay childcare but accepted it was my mistake and was happy to pay back as long as it could be done in instalments. They charged me £10 and that was it.

I'm a bit concerned about this year, I calculated the average weekly cost as usual but I didn't expect that for the first time in years O was going to be allowed to take some time off during school holidays, therefore not paying some weeks of holiday clubs. I have rang the to adjust the new amount but have not received zny confirmation of the change. I am alteady worrying about it...

dragonfly75 Sat 03-Nov-12 23:05:44

Thanks all, I just wish they had a system where you could email any changes, it would make it so much easier. When you're working and the only time you can call is on a night or at weekends when the kids are under your feet it's difficult. I wouldn't be so daunting if they answered within a couple of minutes, but every time I tried to call I was on hold for about 20 minutes then had to leave it because the kids needed me. I did try several times, but never got through. I know I should have kept trying, but life gets in the way, then it just slipped my mind. Because you know you have to be on hold for ages before you get through, you almost have to put a space in your diary to make the call! Surely there should be someway that we can email any changes. May be we should start a campaign.

By the way, this is the first time I have ever used mumsnet and I'm not familiar with the jargon everyone is using. What does Dd and Ds stand for?????

elvisola Sat 03-Nov-12 23:11:29

Dear Daughter and Dear Son

lisad123 Sat 03-Nov-12 23:13:59

I called them when mine changed but they failed to put changes on and so overpaid with Childcare. They just took it all back over the year

dragonfly75 Sat 03-Nov-12 23:46:19

Athendof-hope you don't mind, but I have sent you a private message to ask a couple of things. If you don't get it let me know and I will re-send (when I tried to send it, it came up with a message with loads of symbols, so I'm not sure if it has sent correctly-it has done this with all the private messages I have sent.) Does it always do this? I'm new to this site, so not sure how thing work!!)

dragonfly75 Sat 03-Nov-12 23:47:52

Thanks elvisola, it makes sense now!!

lisad123-how did you proved you called to inform them? Did they have a record of the call, or did they just take your word for it?

Athendof Sun 04-Nov-12 18:11:21

I replied to the message, hope you have got it (but let me know uf you didn't and I'll send it again

dragonfly75 Sun 04-Nov-12 21:27:02

Thank you so much Athendof for your message I have sent you a message back

blushingm Sat 10-Nov-12 15:49:16

I had pretty much the same letter - is miscalculated and didn't notice my mistake . I ended up with an overpayment of £1800, they're just recovering it at about £100 pm. Not prosecuted as they believed it wasn't intentional

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