A few weeks ago I completed my Tax Credit renewal form and returned it to HMRC. Last week two identical letters landed on my doormat from HMRC. Good, thinks I my renewal confirmation; though not sure why exactly they needed to send out two mailings.
Today I brought the letters into work and asked a work colleague who works as a benefits' adviser (tax credits are included in his working brief) to take a look at the letters. Sometime later, he came back to me and said it was his belief that HMRC had made an error in their calculations; he even highlighted where he thought the errors had occurred, advising me to contact the revenue for a breakdown of the credits.
The first envelope I opened contained a 6-page letter with a summary for 2013-2014, whose figures made no sense; but went on to looking back at 2012-2013.
The second letter, only 4-pages, was full of conflicting information. At one point implying I owe them over £800 from a miscalculation, on their part.
After an interminable wait an HMRC officer answers the phone. Of course I offer my NI number, as is customary; but matey waves this away asking me what the call is about.
Me: "It's concerning two contradictory letters I've received from your organisation in connection with my tax credits."
HMRC: "How are they contradictory?"
Me: "Well, one letter tells me I owe HMRC money; while the other states I'm owed money from HMRC. The amounts I owe also change from page to page; and the figure you have for my income for 2012-2013 differs, upwards, by over £500."
HMRC: "Can I have your NI number, please?"
Me: "The one I offered you at the start of this conversation? Yes, here it is Y* ** ** ** D".
HMRC: "Just hold the line..."
A few minutes elapse and matey's back:
HMRC: "The letters we sent out are not contradictory. The figures do add up. What exactly is your problem?"
Me: "Well to start with, could you explain why after around May/June 2012 the credits I received fell from over £140 per week to around £28 per week. I know the 50+ premium was discontinued in April 2012. But the drop seems excessive. Hardly an incentive for disabled people to work."
HMRC: "The 50+ premium finished years ago. And as I've said the figures in your letters all add up and are self explanatory."
Me: "Ok, then how much do I owe HMRC? Is it £703.42 as stated on P4 letter 1; or is it £812 as stated on P3 of the second letter? Why are you working on a salary inflated by over £500 for 2012-2013?"
HMRC: "Didn't you get a pay rise in April? You see, we calculate salaries upwards for the following year in order to eliminate overpayment."
Me: "Before speaking to you I ran these letters by a co-worker who deals in benefits' advice, including tax credits which I know aren't strictly a benefit. He thinks the figures are wrong."
HMRC: "Does he work for HMRC?"
Me: "No, he's a benefits' adviser."
HMRC: "In that case he wouldn't understand the figures."
HMRC: "He won't understand our calculations. You should only concern yourself with the final figures on Page 6 of letter 1 as this is what you will be receiving "
Me: "Oh, ok. Before I go mate, are there any jobs going in your office? Because it looks as though I'm going to have to come and work for HMRC in order to understand how my tax credits are calculated!"
The irony is that HMRC has a tax credits calculator on its own website; which is the tool my co-worker uses. Indeed he used the HMRC calculator to estimate my credit; and believes HMRC has made a mistake. Looks as though I'm going to have to lodge an appeal.