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Am I committing benefit fraud?

(34 Posts)
JingleMum Thu 10-Jan-13 16:00:54

Hi, didn't know whether to post this here or in legal matters? Hoping for some advice.

Ex and I split in February 2011, he's a great dad & we still get on great, we are good friends but there's no way we can reconcile and we never will.

I live with my mum (moved in when ex & I spli) can't afford to move out until DD starts school & I can work more hours. The only benefit I claim is WTC & CTC. I need to temporarily leave my mum's house for around 4 months a little later this year (lots of building work, re-wiring, redecoration, extension etc...) I work from home, my clients come to me, the house will be unliveable so I can't work from home until work is complete.

Ex owns his own property & is letting DD and I move in whilst work is going on at mum's house, he is moving into either his mum's spare room or his brother's converted loft, he's doing it because we have nowhere else to go & also because I'll lose 4 months income if he doesn't.

I will need to inform tax credits & child benefit of my temporary move, but I'm worried it's benefit fraud & they'll make us do a joint claim? I want to be honest about my temporary move in case they need to write to me etc... But I'm worried when I ring they'll automatically know it's his house (he doesn't claim tax credits) and assume we've reconciled, even though it's temporary & he'll be moving out. Is this benefit fraud and will they know it's his address?

Just to add I'll be going on his council tax bill for the 4 month period as I'm sure it's illegal if I don't declare my move, albeit temporary?

As soon as building work is complete I'll be straight back home & changing everything again.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 10-Jan-13 17:04:47

If it's only a temporary move and you get the tax credits paid straight into your account (?) then there's no real reason to advise of a change of circumstances either to HMRC or the local council. You'll still be a lone parent, just at a different address for a few weeks. You'll still be registered and paying your share of the council tax at your Mum's address presumably? That won't stop just because the place is uninhabitable. I really don't think that what you're planning is fraud.

JingleMum Thu 10-Jan-13 17:46:37

Hi, thanks for the reply. I had to ring tax credits this week regarding my child care costs going down and I explained about moving temporarily and they said when I did, that I had to inform them as it was longer than 8 weeks. I wasn't going to bother but my house is a good distance away from my ex's and I won't be going back to pick up mail during the 4 months, so I think I have to inform them to get my renewal letter etc.. Just worried that they'll assume we are back together & I'll get in trouble.

Rockchick1984 Thu 10-Jan-13 17:49:20

Why not tell them the full situation and ask their advice? That way you know there won't be any fallout from it smile

JingleMum Thu 10-Jan-13 17:57:31

Hi, thanks for replying. Just scared that they will say we need to claim jointly & I can't afford to do that, plus I never told them soon enough that we separated & I'm now paying back £500?! It's strange how it works, they penalised me for claiming less money than I was entitled to, so god knows how it would work if they thought we were back together.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 10-Jan-13 18:45:25

OK wasn't aware of the 8 week rule. However, I think for the sake of an extra 8 weeks, it probably would have been better to keep quiet and get the post forwarded instead...

JingleMum Thu 10-Jan-13 20:09:40

I think you're probably right Cogito unfortunately I've already spoken with them. Do. Think it's likely they'll find out it's his home and I'll be done for benefit fraud?

JingleMum Thu 10-Jan-13 20:10:01

*Do you think

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 10-Jan-13 22:35:54

IME HMRC can go either way when it comes to checking up. confused They either do nothing at all or they're all over you like a rash. Personally (and do with this what you will) I'd move out, move back, not tell them anything and gamble that they've forgotten all about the conversation. You 'changed your mind'.

HappyMummyOfOne Thu 10-Jan-13 22:39:00

Post forwarding, from memory, excludes certain items and tax credits is one of them to avoid fraud.

If they do a random computer check it may alert them if you have lived their previously. A credit check would also link his name to your new address.

Be honest with them upfront and ensure he has proof of living elsewhere but even that can be over ridden by other factors.

5madthings Thu 10-Jan-13 22:44:13

Can your mum.not just forward your post.
You are not committing fraud but i think.it would be far simpler to not mention thd move as it is temporary.

JingleMum Thu 10-Jan-13 23:35:49

Thanks for taking the time to reply guys.

Mum's hard is very far from ex's, plus mum is having to leave temporarily too, the reason I need to inform them is in case I miss my renewal or any other correspondence.

Never lived at his current property with him, we lived somewhere else, but I guess if they do a credit check in those 4 months then I am in big trouble? Asked my friend for advice today, she didn't understand why I was panicking as her ex left her 2 years ago & she's obviously claiming her tax credits as a single person, but it's only his name on the mortgage of the house she's living in and even though the bills are all in her name, one of them comes out of his account still, so surely they mustn't check on a monthly basis?

JingleMum Thu 10-Jan-13 23:36:47

*mum's hard?? I meant house!

DSM Thu 10-Jan-13 23:42:50

Surely your mum can just pass you the mail?

I wouldn't tell them. There is no need. And I don't understand why you are being 'put on' his council tax? Surely if he is expecting you to pay, he'll pay it and you'll pay him back? I wouldn't bother with all the hassle of switching names, bank accounts etc. for the sale of 4 months.

I don't think they assume you are in a relationship just because you are sharing a house anyway (even though you won't actually be) as people can house share and have no romantic relationship.

But then there are couples who don't share finances and the parent loses out on TC when they live together which I've never understood. Why should someone become financially responsible for someone else's child simply because they are cohabiting? Never understood HMRC's view on this.

ThisIsMummyPig Thu 10-Jan-13 23:45:17

If you were going to claim Housing Benefit for paying rent to your EX-DH, that would be benefit fraud, otherwise I don't think it is.

Tax Credits don't have the staff to fraud investigations though, so you are unlikely to have any trouble. (bit of a gripe of mine that)

DSM Thu 10-Jan-13 23:46:48

Oh yes they do, we are in the middle of an investigation. Highly irritating as we have our payments stopped pending the outcome (it's been since September).

DSM Thu 10-Jan-13 23:48:22

Claimed TC for 6 years before being 'randomly selected' for a fraud check though so I don't think they have a huge team on the case grin

It's a terribly run system in general.

TheSilveryTinsellyPussycat Fri 11-Jan-13 00:07:52

Certainly, if you split while married, and are under the same roof, then each can claim Tax Credits independantly, so prob WTC + CTC for one and WTC for the other.

JingleMum Fri 11-Jan-13 00:25:05

Again, thanks for all replies. DSM that's awful that your payments have stopped. Hope you can get it sorted & back dated.

So I'm essentially taking a risk? I may be looked into in those 4 months? I'd have to be really unlucky. I just thought I'd ring up & they'd magically know that it was ex's house & they'd assume we'd reconciled.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 00:28:55

Thanks Jingle - I hope so too..

I don't even think you are taking a risk; you aren't doing anything wrong, you are merely concerned that it might look bad to an outsider but the truth is that you are still living alone as a single parent.

By the assumption that you think they might make, all renting people would be 'assumed' to be living with the property owners!

If you were reconciling but wanted to continue to receive TC then yes, you'd be taking a risk. Thats not the case, you aren't doing anything wrong. Don't tell them, go and pick up your mail once a month and don't worry smile

MrAnchovy Fri 11-Jan-13 00:55:42

"I think for the sake of an extra 8 weeks, it probably would have been better to keep quiet and get the post forwarded instead... "

Yeah great idea, HMRC have no access to forwarding address records do they?

The most ridiculous thing about this advice is that you aren't actually going to do anything that should result in a loss of benefit, the only "crime" you might commit is in not declaring the perfectly legal things that you intend to do!

Explain the situation to HMRC. Put your name on the council tax records and take his off as you are then both putting the true postition on public record.

MrAnchovy Fri 11-Jan-13 01:05:51

Links to changes you must report for child benefit and tax credits.

Mumsnet community (except Rockchick) you have really screwed up on this one - the OP came here looking to do the right thing and needing some assurance that it wouldn't result in a loss of benefit and instead you have told her to do things that could really get her into trouble and have her benefit stopped for good!

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 01:06:56

Not if the mail is being 'forwarded' from your mothers hand into your hand, no.

You can go through the process of informing HMRC of exactly what is going on, if you want. I personally wouldn't bother as it makes no difference anyway. No crime is taking place, no fraud.

DSM Fri 11-Jan-13 01:08:26

But she isn't changing her address! Her registered, permanent address will remain the same. She is merely staying elsewhere for a few weeks whilst building works are completed.

TheSilveryTinsellyPussycat Fri 11-Jan-13 01:14:45

Scuse me, my post was intended to reassure OP that it would not be fraudulent...

MrAnchovy Fri 11-Jan-13 08:48:37

Oops sorry TheSilveryTinsellyPussycat and also HappyMummyOfOne, you are both excluded from my shock at the collective lack of wisdom.

Its not as if its difficult to notify, there's a single online form to do it covering child benefit, tax credit, self employment and all other HMRC records.

JingleMum Fri 11-Jan-13 10:46:53

Again, thanks so much for all the replies.

The reason i want to notify them is a) i imagine it's illegal not to as it's concerning money and b) my mum's house is really quite far from my ex's and it's unlikely i'll be going backwards & forwards to collect mail. Therefore i will miss my renewal. Also bare in mind that my mum is temporarily leaving too, so it won't be a case of her being there to foreard the mail.

I was not going to notify my bank or for example my next catalogue, i was also not going to notify HMRC self assessment department with regards to my self employment as it's only temporary and my tax return wouldn't need filling in and sending back til october (i'll be back home by then)

I'm now worried that when i phone tax credits, they'll inform self assesment dept and i'll get in trouble, as ex is self employed and obviously gets his tax return to his address (the one i'm temporarily moving too)

Is is likely this temporary change is going to land me in trouble? Seems so much hassle but i HAVE to move there! No other choice.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 11-Jan-13 11:14:21

It's the fact that it is so much hassle that I suggested saying nothing and got shot down for it. smile IME HMRC are hopeless if you keep changing circumstances. Takes them several weeks to process the first lot of information by which time you'll be back where you started and waiting another few weeks for them to process the next lot. Given that I have spent the last nine or ten years filling in an SA and then getting a form to fill in with exactly the same information all over again from the Tax Credit people I really don't think they talk to each other.

BTW... cannot see why you'd want to go on the electoral roll at the new address. That one doesn't make sense to me.

JingleMum Fri 11-Jan-13 11:26:51

I think i was just being stupidly over cautious regarding electoral roll!! I think i'm probably best staying on electoral roll at mum's. the only way i'd change it is if there would be an election to get rid of cameron whilst i was temporarily at ex's!

MrAnchovy Fri 11-Jan-13 11:32:58

"I'm now worried that when i phone tax credits, they'll inform self assesment dept and i'll get in trouble, as ex is self employed and obviously gets his tax return to his address (the one i'm temporarily moving too)"

I don't think they will accept a change of address over the phone, it has to be in writing (or using the form I linked to) and then it does get changed for all purposes.

You won't get in trouble, you are not doing anything wrong. The worst thing that can happen is that they make enquiries about whether you are living with your ex as a partner (or more likely were as they are unlikely to catch up with this before you move back in with your mother) and the facts will show that you aren't (or weren't - that's why its important to change his council tax record).

I'd also recommend you visit a Citizens Advice Bureau and talk this through so there is an independent formal record setting out what you intend to do.

JingleMum Fri 11-Jan-13 14:08:15

Thank you MrAnchovy i will definitely get to the citizens advice. When i rang them this week regarding my childcare costs going down, they said it was fine to ring them regarding change of address.

Mosman Sat 12-Jan-13 00:55:05

The renewal doesn't come in until July though does it. I've had no address before, we were homeless and HMRC's response to that was to stop everything for 10 weeks so now we're homeless and penny less. Lost my job as a result so my advice is to keep your mouth shut.

marcopront Sun 13-Jan-13 08:26:30

I know this is not related to the question but if your Mum's house is too far from where you we be living to collect the post then will your clients be willing to travel to where you are?

JingleMum Sun 13-Jan-13 22:56:04

marco I used to live in the area that ex's new place is (we lived together, but in a different house than the one I'm temporarily moving into) a lot of my clients still live around that area and they followed me to my mum's address. The clients I have from round by my mum's may not follow me, but will hopefully return to me once I move back.

Mosman that is awful, I'm sorry to hear that.

I guess I just have to hope that in those 4 months I don't get looked into. There's no other way round it. Hopefully chances will be slim.

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