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Tax credits and childcare - moral dilemma

(34 Posts)
JeanBodel Tue 25-Oct-11 07:17:59

I really need some advice on this.

I just got a second part-time job. This bumps up my hours to a point where I'd be eligible for some help with childcare costs. Not a lot of help, because of my husband's salary, but a bit.

My daughter already goes to nursery for three days a week, which obviously costs us a significant amount.

Here's the rub: neither of my jobs takes place when she's at nursery. She's in for various reasons: so I can study, so I can provide sickness/holiday cover on an ad hoc basis, so I don't go mad caring for children all day.

Would it be morally wrong therefore to start receiving a government contribution towards my childcare costs?

I don't seem to be able to think about this clearly, so would be very grateful for any comments.

Thanks in advance.

callmemrs Tue 25-Oct-11 09:06:28

Gosh, call me naive but I kind of assumed that if someone is eligible, through the hours they work, for help towards childcare costs, then the system ensures that the money is actually used for that purpose!

If you are working and someone is looking after your child for free (I am assuming this may be your partner, mother etc and you will be working evenings or weekends) then its ridiculous if you are able to be remunerated for something you're not actually paying for.

Remember that this money doesn;t come from some bottomless purse - it's paid for by people who are working hard, and probably paying their own childcare out of their taxed income too.

If the system really operates as you describe, and people can claim childcare costs when they arent actually using paid childcare for the hours they work, then no wonder the economy has gone down the pan.

MadameCastafiore Tue 25-Oct-11 09:09:19

It would be morally wrong for you to clai if you are not using the momnies for childcare whilst you are at work - maybe illegal too and I wouldn't do it as being found out would be awful and could mean that you have to pay money back plus a fine.

Imnotaslimjim Tue 25-Oct-11 09:11:36

You are entitled to help with childcare. It doesn't matter if the child is in care while you work or at another time. As long as that money that comes in goes towards the cost of the childcare, then it doesn't matter why she is there. I wouldn't think twice about it to be honest

MrsJRT Tue 25-Oct-11 09:12:58

I think it'd be fine, you are going out to work, you don't require childcare for the hours you work but you do need it at other times. The above posters argument doesn't make any sense, I send my youngest to a childminders when I'm at home in bed, because I work nightshifts, ok so I don't require childcare for the actual hours I'm working but that's because they are tucked up in bed with daddy at home to care for them. I think if you earn enough to claim then go for it, that childcare may not beggars during your working hours but if you're anything like me then it is still essential.

cheeseandmarmitesandwich Tue 25-Oct-11 09:13:40

I think the previous poster is being a bit harsh-you work, you use childcare, I don't think it matters if the hours are not exactly the same. If you are working at a time when other people would be relaxing (evenings, weekends), surely you need some time off from the kids at other times.

Do you or DH get childcare vouchers? That makes a big difference to us.

cheeseandmarmitesandwich Tue 25-Oct-11 09:13:40

I think the previous poster is being a bit harsh-you work, you use childcare, I don't think it matters if the hours are not exactly the same. If you are working at a time when other people would be relaxing (evenings, weekends), surely you need some time off from the kids at other times.

Do you or DH get childcare vouchers? That makes a big difference to us.

MrsJRT Tue 25-Oct-11 09:13:58

Beggars? Be for!

TheGoldRoad Tue 25-Oct-11 09:14:52

The OP is using childcare though, not having 'free' childcare and claiming money for it. OP the fact that you have to provide cover on an an hoc basis on the days/times when your DD is in nursery, surely that itself legitimises the use of the tax credits. Not that it needs justifying to anyone IMO.

The OP sounds like she is working hard - two jobs plus studying plus a dh who pays tax. I don't see what the problem is here!

onlylivinggirl Tue 25-Oct-11 09:15:45

I don't think there is a moral issue - you are paying for childcare and you are working- you can justify it morally- you need the childcare to give you time to do other stuff- if you didn't have this time you might have to do other stuff in the time that you are now working - also it gives you a break which makes you physically/practically/emotionally able to work

LynetteScavo Tue 25-Oct-11 09:20:08

Hmmm...I pay for before and after school care with the money the government gives me. I am not actually working when they are there, I am travelling to and from work, but without it I wouldn't be able to work, if that makes sense.

I think if she is in nursery so you can provide sickness/holiday cover on an ad hoc basis, then it is justifiable.

Maybe you should ask someone on the help line to get an official answer. They do carry out audits on a very few people, so you wouldn't want to find yourself in a position where you had to pay money back.

Trills Tue 25-Oct-11 09:25:19

If you fill in the forms honestly, and they decide you are entitled to the vouchers, then take them.

Simple. You're not deceiving anyone, you're not cheating anything.

It's not up to you to second-guess what the childcare vouchers are intended for. Just be honest and give all the information they ask for, and if you are entitled to them then use them.

callmemrs Tue 25-Oct-11 09:33:48

Surely the issue is that the op said she is entitled to help with CHILDCARE costs, because of the hours she works?? If she were simply entitled to a sum of money because of low income, then I agree, she should claim it and use it for whatever she chooses, and indeed, if the money were just because of low income, some recipients wouldn't even have children.

But she said the money is directly for childcare. She is using a nursery already, partly to give her a break, so although it may be a struggle its affordable. It makes no sense that now she is going to be working MORE hours (during evenings or whenever) that she suddenly starts to get paid for childcare she already uses anyway!

If this is how the system really works then as I said before- no bloody wonder the economy is a mess!! A tax credit for childcare for someone on a low income is absolutely fair enough- but it should be ringfenced for the childcare that enables you to work. According to this system, a woman could presumably work 3 days a week, get a relative to look after her child for free-and then put the child in nursery for the remaining two days just to get a break- at the tax payers expense!!

Do people really think this is a good use of limited public funding? hmm

ilovemydogandMrObama Tue 25-Oct-11 09:34:51

So, you pay for childcare, but not the hours you work? Not sure I totally understand, but look at the actual working. I think it's, 'help with childcare costs...' rather than only helping with childcare costs only for the hours you work.

Trills Tue 25-Oct-11 09:36:41

Just because the childcare isn't happening at the same time as work doesn't mean it is not enabling her to do the extra hours.

If she didn't have the childcare during her off-work hours, she wouldn't be able to study, so would have to do less hours at work so that she could study during that time (when DH is looking after the baby).

JeanBodel Tue 25-Oct-11 09:42:20

Ok, thanks for all the replies.

There seems to be two schools of thought. Hence my problem, really.

I don't think there are any actual checks built into the system. But it is important to me to do the right thing.

I can't type more right now as DD has just hit DS with a Triceratops. Will have a think and be back later.

callmemrs Tue 25-Oct-11 09:45:34

Possibly trillis- or possibly she would have to postpone studying for a while and just continue working more hours. After all, many people who don't qualify for any help have to make those choices. It's a fine line isn't it- where do 'you decide when a person is using childcare DIRECTLY to enable them to work, and where it is being used simply to make life pleasanter - eg to allow a woman to take a day time study class, catch up on chores or simply (as the op says) have a break from the kids....

Personally I am really surprised that the system allows for this, I would have thought in these tough times when many people struggle to pay essentials like rent and heating, its a little odd that govt funds are available to pay for childcare when a parent isn't actually working .....

thebananawitchproject Tue 25-Oct-11 09:57:31

OP, I don't see this as a moral dilemma for you at all. I work 3 days, but pay for 5 days after school care. I pay for 5 days as I often have to change the 3 days I work, for various things like hospital appointments, childminder holidays, gran not able to collect or work needing me in on a different day for various reasons. I can't expect the ASC to free up a spot for me on an ad hoc basis, hence me having to pay extra. I also have overlapping childcare, and claim the full cost. I don't get the full cost but the total amount I claim is considered and is the basis for their calculations. I had the same when DD was at nursery, and had to pay CM for a full day as well as the lunch time period before she was collected by CM (free morning hours ended at 11.30, but she wasn't collected by CM until 1.15pm). My childcare arrangements are necessary if I am to be able to work the hours I do, and have the flexibility necessary for both work and non-work commitments. I also work outwith the normal 9-5 hours, so getting childcare to cover those patterns is extremely difficult. Needing childcare to allow you to study is a very valid reason for having it.

Put the claim in, and see what you get. As long as you can evidence your childcare costs, that will get you some of the help your circumstances dictate. Unless you are pocketing the money and not passing it on to the nursery etc. it's a valid claim.

littleducks Tue 25-Oct-11 10:01:35

grin at the triceratops comment

The system is for help with childcare costs, if you work not for when you are at work.

Hence places like Kip McGrath and other childcare that is marketed as tuition can advertise as been able to be paid for from a tax credits childcare claim.

I don't especially like that but as other posters have pointed out the use childcare to cover the commute to and from work, or for ther rest after a night shift so no other system would work.

When I worked weekends I could have claimed tax credits for dd's preschool during the week. She was fine with the goverment 15 hrs anyway so I didnt but it would have been possible.

callmemrs Tue 25-Oct-11 10:03:06

Yes, if 'you need to work flexibly, or eg have to book and pay for an entire nursery session but finish work a bit earlier- that makes sense. As does study directly related to work.

But a woman who in theory might work Monday- to weds using granny as a free childminder- and then puts her child in nursery thurs and fri to have a break, maybe do a day time class (just because she wants to ,not work related).... Should public funds pay for this?

I would say in the current climate there are other priorities, but there you go..

cheeseandmarmitesandwich Tue 25-Oct-11 10:17:16

Callmemrs, the OP is a taxpayer too!

I agree with whoever said fill in the forms honestly, and if they say you are entitled then take the money.

Fwiw, my next door neighbour uses the childcare element to pay for childcare even though she doesn't work and her DH is an IT contractor who earns a lot of money- I think they fiddle it somehow so his 'salary' is the minimum amount and she is 'employed' by him. I think it is disgraceful but apparently that's what his accountant said they could do. I would say they are fiddling the system, but not the OP!

callmemrs Tue 25-Oct-11 10:23:21

I know the op is a tax payer- that wasn't the question I asked! I asked if people think its a good use of public funds. I would say no- and your neighbours situation is a good example of how rubbish 'the system is!

In an ideal world we'd all have some subsidised childcare to use for whatever purpose we wish- work, break, evening classes....

But while we're in the midst of dire recession, it seems sensible that it pays only for childcare which directly enables someone who couldn't otherwise afford it, to work

LoonyRationalist Tue 25-Oct-11 10:59:03

Callmemrs what about someone who works 3 days a week. 2 days they get childcare help, one day they get free childcare from family. you say they are entitled as it is when they are at work. What if the free childcare from family is also given in days off, do they suddenly become unentitled because in theory this could be used instead of claiming?

I think that the benefit exists to help work pay. Therefore if you qualify then the hours should be used as you wish.

JeanBodel Tue 25-Oct-11 11:01:10

Right, I just rang the tax credit hotline. The woman I spoke to said that it didn't matter when I worked. So long as I was working over 16 hours a week, I was eligible for assistance.

Although I've just thought - we do use childcare vouchers from my husband's salary. So I don't think we're actually going to be eligible for any help at all...

callmemrs Tue 25-Oct-11 11:29:02

Loony - yy , making work pay, I totally understand and agree with that agenda- but if it was purely about that, the money would apply to anyone, whether they are a mum with kids or 60 yrs old without.
It was link to childcare which confuses the issue. If additional money is given specifically for that purpose it makes sense that its used like that. When you have people using granny for free care and putting the child in nursery for non work days just to claim their entitlement - well, they may be technically entitled, but it's incorrect to say they need those funds to work. They could carry on working with their free care anyway!!

Jean- glad you got it sorted

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