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Please help ... Child Tax Credits have been stopped :(

(28 Posts)
Dieu Sun 05-Jul-15 13:11:49

Hello everyone

First time posting on 'Money Matters' and hoping for some support and advice.

My husband and I separated nearly 2 years ago now, and one year ago, my children and I moved into our new home. My husband was, and still is, paying the mortgage on the place, so just used our new address for all his correspondence (it was easier at the time for mail redirection from the family home). He is living with the woman with whom he had an affair during our marriage. I told him repeatedly that he should officially use her address, and that it looked suspicious for him to use ours, when I was getting child tax credits on the basis of being a lone parent. He said that it would be fine, and that it was just easier for him to use our address. I was a bit but just let it go.

So surprise, surprise the other day I got a letter from HMRC saying that they had reason to believe that he was living with me. I rang them immediately to explain that this was definitely not the case, that we had separated and most certainly no longer lived together, that he was in fact residing with his partner. I readily admitted that it looked dodgy, but that he didn't want to use his current address for various reasons, including the mortgage and the fact that he didn't want his work to know that we had split up (his girlfriend is an ex colleague, so his work would be able to put 2 & 2 together and link him with her). The woman was sympathetic about my predicament, but said that it didn't look good when all of his correspondence, financial activity, etc, linked him to my address. I told the woman that I would speak to him and have him change his address officially, then provide HMRC with the proof. She agreed that this would be the best course of action. I then spoke to my husband (I only call him that as we're not yet divorced) and he agreed to do just that. So, wanting to give HMRC my full cooperation, I called them back to give an update and asked them to give us a bit of time while he made these changes.

Just my luck, it was a different person when I called back. She was having none of it. She made the decision there and then to end my tax credits. I appealed to her not to take my husband's naiveté and lack of action (up until that point anyway) out on my children and I, but it made no difference. I explained what we were going to do to put everything in order, but she said that it was too late and that my husband should have changed everything over before that point. I can totally see her view, but it was frustrating not to be given the chance to put everything right.

Now I have been sent a follow-up letter saying that I 'may' have to pay everything back and I 'may' have to pay a penalty too. It's so annoying when he genuinely hasn't been living with us, and even though it looks suspicious, I am telling the honest truth. Nothing really links him to his current address though and as I said, they didn't give us the opportunity to put it right.

I am very worried about the whole thing. I had gotten myself a part-time job and between this, and the support from the government (which I had never before had until now), I was beginning to achieve a bit of financial independence from my husband (always the main earner, and boy didn't he like to remind me of it, while I was the SAHM), and was building up the confidence to perhaps return to teaching, and work on a more full-time basis.

Moreover, it feels horrible not to be believed, and to be thought of as dodgy/abusing the system when I have never before set a foot wrong. Does anyone have any advice? I've never been to CAB before - do you think they'd be able to help? Do you think I'd be able to reapply for child tax credits in the future, when my husband's affairs are in order, or do you only get one chance at these things? Will my Child Benefit be affected (I believe this is a separate thing)? We have been very foolish and naive, but as we didn't have to provide proof of address/the separation at the time of application, we just sort of plodded along thinking it would be okay ... or at least he did.

Thank you very much for reading, and sorry that this is so long.

scottybeammeup Sun 05-Jul-15 17:00:51

Do you have a separation agreement or anything? When my husband and I separated I went to a solicitor and had one drawn up to agree the financial arrangements.

When I was investigated last year for exactly the same reasons as you (although apart from the mortgage there was nothing else registered here, he had changed all his addresses etc), I was told to send my separation agreement to them as "proof" that we were no longer together.

Could you get one drawn up? Ours cost about £200 and was done officially through a solicitor.

IAmAShitHotLawyer Sun 05-Jul-15 17:12:31

Where is he registered for council tax? That is his official address

Neffi Sun 05-Jul-15 17:43:04

If you have a written decision you now need to ask for a mandatory reconsideration. Write to them laying out all the facts and provide whatever evidence you have to show that your ex does not live with you.

For example copies of utilities bills in your name, proof of maintenance coming into your bank account from him. Any letters he gets at his address with his new partner. If she is willing a letter from his new partner confirming that he lives with her. Any paperwork relating to him agreeing to pay the mortgage after your split.

Send it all off and hopefully they will change the decision. You can get more help and advice from a CAB if you have a local one.

Dieu Sun 05-Jul-15 18:06:15

We have been so stupid sad. There is absolutely nothing, no evidence at all, to link him to his partner's address. He is even registered here with the council (I know, I know blush), as he pays all the bills. In our naiveté, we thought when filling out the form that my word was sufficient, when stating that I was single. It didn't occur that we would need proof a bit further down the line. If I could do it again, I would obviously be firmer from the start and 'make' him change address. I did point it out to him repeatedly, from the start, but he quite a strong, dominant character and difficult to stand up to. Moreover, he can be a bit arrogant and thought it would all be fine. I honestly think though that he was hedging his bets a bit, and that he thought he could move back in with us if it didn't work out with his partner!! No, we have nothing drawn up by a solicitor, mostly because our separation is an amicable one and there have been so issues with him supporting us financially. I was very much given the impression by the 2nd woman at HMRC that it is too late to make the changes now anyway, and that it should have been all sorted out at the start. I completely agreed with her that it looked suspicious, but it's not easy when there is no actual proof that we are separated/living apart, and only my word for it.

Pinkandpurplehairedlady Sun 05-Jul-15 18:15:01

I was investigated for similar reasons, as Neffi said above ask for a mandatory review and get as many pieces of paper together that you can showing that he had moved out.

scottybeammeup Sun 05-Jul-15 18:36:49

Its horrible feeling like you are being investigated for fraud when you know you've been honest. Your situation does sound tricky. My separation wasn't "not amicable" iykwim but even so I wanted something official to show what we had agreed just in case it ever got nasty. When I spoke with hmrc they said that the document would provide sufficient evidence that we weren't a couple alongside his new address, council tax registration etc.

Some people still live under the same roof as an ex partner and claim tax credit so there must be some way to prove you are not a couple any more. Does he get no mail at all at his new address?

Dieu Sun 05-Jul-15 18:57:48

No, I don't think so Scotty. I just can't see any way round this. Husband has written them a letter asking them not to penalise me, taking full responsibility for this mistake as well as the marriage breakdown. He has given them his new address, but to my knowledge has nothing to back it up as yet. It was good of him to send the letter but I doubt it will do any good though, as to them we're just a number.

scottybeammeup Sun 05-Jul-15 19:06:14

It's so stressful. At this stage I still don't know what I'm being investigated for and I'm stressing continually about it. Just hope I get a letter soon as I'm due to be away from home for a month from the end of the month and just want to know what my position is!

Dieu Sun 05-Jul-15 19:14:57

Good luck with it.

scottybeammeup Sun 05-Jul-15 19:33:33

You too.

Let us know how you get on!

BrieAndChilli Sun 05-Jul-15 19:51:07

The thing is if everything is at your address they have to go on the evidence not just your sayso otherwise everyone would claim as single parents but live with those husband an then claim I be separated if they ever got a letter questioning it.
You should be able to claim form now onwards as a single parent but they may ask you to pay back everything oh have had so far

Jen1610 Sun 05-Jul-15 20:09:02

The problem you are facing is, they don't necessarily consider you single just because he lives at a different address.

For them to consider you single, you need to be paying all your bills on your own (unless something has been written up legally into a divorce etc about what he will pay as maintenance or spousal support) because he is financially supporting you and paying all the bills as you said and the mortgage, and all his mail goes to your new address that you have since moved to and he has no proof at his new address then I do think you will struggle to prove anything.

What will happen will be you and possibly he will be fined by HMRC, it's on a sliding scale what they fine you. You can call and ask to pay it up monthly rather than a whole. They will tell you you need to claim as a couple. or you need to completely disengage from him financially. He needs to change all his mail to his new address. and register as living there with necessary people such as for council tax etc. you need to go to a lawyer and get something written up between yourself which shows what he will pay you. then it needs to be paid into your bank monthly or weekly marked as maintenance. Then you can reapply as single.

EssexMummy123 Sun 05-Jul-15 20:52:42

You need to get him off your council tax bill tomorrow, and put all the bills in your name / direct debited from your bank account and get him to pay a set amount into cover them every month.

Otherwise why would they believe you?

Also who cares if his work link him as having a former colleague as a new girlfriend? nice that's he's happy to lie to HMRC, your council and his employers - not only that but YOU could end up in court for fraud - i don't think you realise how serious this could be.

So tomorrow his name off all bills, yours on.

mrsdavidbowie Sun 05-Jul-15 20:55:03

Sadly it does look dodgy. Hope the outcome is not too bad

morethanpotatoprints Sun 05-Jul-15 21:00:22

You need to redirect his mail to his new address.
you won't need to pay the money back as they do this when they close an account. they did this to me last year different circs but same result. they hounded me to pay the award back but I didn't. They kept on and still try now even though it was sorted in January this year.
I'm sorry but once they start insisting on you paying it back you are in do do. Get in touch with your MP, wish I had done this sooner. They will help you deal with this, I found out too late they can really help.
Don't give your dh any help at all especially at the expense of your family. Make sure all his documents and mail are with him and take his name off everything.
It's not your responsibility what his employers think of him.

Bunnyjo Sun 05-Jul-15 21:09:53

OP - you have both been very naïve, foolish in fact.

As far as HMRC are concerned you have been living together - he is registered at your address with the council, he has not redirected any mail and he pays your bills via an 'agreement' between yourselves rather than part of any agreement drawn up by a solicitor. Why would HMRC think anything else? They are certainly not going to take just your word for it and, sadly for you, all the evidence suggests that he is living with you still.

You absolutely must get your separation officially documented; ensure he is not on your utility bills, make sure he is not registered at your address with the council and also ensure you are financially untied too - mortgage, bank accounts, insurances etc..

Expect to be fined by HMRC and to have to pay back any tax credits you have claimed as a lone parent thus far. To be honest, that would be a good outcome as people have been prosecuted in similar circumstances. If you do have any official paperwork suggesting you are both living apart, then it may be worth an appeal - otherwise I would accept whatever 'punishment' they levy on you and ensure your claim is right from here on.

PatriciaHolm Sun 05-Jul-15 21:20:38

As Jen days earlier, the issue is not just that he doesn't live there. Single Tax credits assume you are meeting the bills for your residence; it would seem that if he is paying the mortgage and bills, then you aren't seperated as far as TC consider it anyway, regardless of where he lives,

Presumably he isn't intending to keep meeting your bills in the longer term? What do you see happening on divorce?

MMcanny Sun 05-Jul-15 21:28:22

If he's still down as living there the council tax will be higher than if you are registered as a single person - doh! Did you see a lawyer before now who could back up your story?

morethanpotatoprints Sun 05-Jul-15 21:41:34

I have just reread this OP, and unfortunately see a parallel with the case of a person very close to me.
I read your original post wrongly and didn't realise the extent of what you said.
you failed to tell them of changes and you have probably had far more money than you were entitled to as you have claimed as a couple.
Her dh did the same and this person was made an example of during a government crackdown on fraud. She received 18 months and was out after a year. She had a newborn in SCBU no allowances were made.
She was very naive but as far as the judge was concerned she signed the papers, he went on to have several more dc and partners and continued to swindle and fraud.
You need legal representation immediately and your nice dh the one who was kind enough to write the letter for you may know exactly what he is doing. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you need to wise up and quickly.

mrsdavidbowie Sun 05-Jul-15 21:44:21

Oh fuck sad

Dieu Sun 05-Jul-15 22:13:08

Thanks for your help everyone. Yes, as stated before, we HAVE been stupid and naive. I am crapping myself, as you're right, I had no idea (having never dealt with HMRC before) how serious this could be.
In fairness, I never applied for Working Tax Credits, even though I earn way below the threshold. I didn't want to apply because I felt it would be taking the piss out of the system, when husband is supporting us financially. I thought this one would be okay as it's for the children. Thank fuck I didn't apply for both.

Viviennemary Mon 06-Jul-15 15:17:32

Write and say you want to appeal the decision as your husband does not live at your adress. But the point is all the evidence points at him living there. So it might be difficult. Take council tax for example. You should be getting the single adult occupancy rate. But if he's even left himself on the council tax bill and has no evidence that he lives at another address it's not surprising that they have taken this decision.

You are honest but many people aren't and they just can't take people's word for things. They need evidence. Hope things work out.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 06-Jul-15 15:25:54

So sorry this is happening to you OP, please get some help in the form of a free 30 mins from solicitor, get him off the bills and as others have said, what his employers think of him is not your concern.
i still wonder about this if I'm honest, it might be a bit of projection so sorry if it is. but it seems a bizarre excuse to still pretend he's living with you.
Either he's not so committed to ow or he knows he is frauding/ similar.

Momzilla82 Mon 06-Jul-15 19:43:31

OP do you have the documentation from Royal Mail to prove the redirection and when it started from? Might be a useful piece of evidence. . . I hope you get it sorted and thank goodness that the claim is in his name (if I understand correctly)

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