HMRC must tread very carefully on outsourcing tax credit debt - LITRG Press Release
The Government announced yesterday that they are to conduct a payment-by-results pilot on outsourcing the collection of tax credits debt. This could mean that people with overpayments of tax credits will be dealing not with HMRC directly, but with debt collectors who will be paid by results, and who may therefore be tempted to be less than scrupulous in the methods they use.
Robin Williamson, Technical Director of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, commented:
“Tax credits overpayments are not due to claimant error and fraud alone. They arise also from official error, and a certain amount of claimant error is generated by wrong information from government sources.
“Also, because tax credits are a system in which payment is made on a provisional basis while entitlement is decided at the end of the year and adjustments then made, overpayments and underpayments often arise naturally as an integral part of the system. They are an inevitable feature of the design of tax credits. We must seriously question whether dealing with tax credit overpayments just like any other debt, by outsourcing recovery to commercial debt collectors, is an appropriate or proportionate response to the problem.
“If HMRC persist in this course of action, they must take great care to impose the same standards and safeguards as they would themselves when recovering these highly sensitive and untypical debts. The debt recovery arm of HMRC has published specific guidance on tax credits debt which has been developed over the last couple of years. It ensures that people’s circumstances are taken into account in order to set realistic time-to-pay arrangements and that those without the means to pay are able to have their debts suspended or written off in accordance with their needs.”
Contact: Robin Williamson (please use form at http://www.litrg.org.uk/ContactUs)