Friday, 21 February 2014

Tribunal finds Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in contempt of court as Govanhill Law Centre recovers £20,000 in tax credits for client

Govanhill Law Centre - part of the Govan Law Centre Trust - acts on behalf of a number of A8 and A2 nationals in the field of social welfare law. In December 2011 we published a report ‘Unequal and Unlawful Treatment: Barriers faced by the Roma Community in Govanhill when accessing welfare benefits and the implications of section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.’

A particularly difficult case relates to a Slovakian National who has resided in the UK since September 2007.  She is a single parent with two dependant daughters, born July 2002 and April 2004. Our client received tax credits in 2008.  In or around July 2010 tax credits were withdrawn. 

Our client appealed against the decision to terminate payment of tax credits. Correspondence became increasingly protracted, information was sought and supplied by our client, however, HMRC declined payment and continued to request the same information over and over.

HMRC would not accept that our client had qualifying children and repeatedly refused her application for tax credits in spite of birth certificates, national identity cards and letters from the local school confirming the same.  In November 2011 our client was advised that she would receive tax credits, however this was then withdrawn.  Correspondence continued, however no progress was made. 

The opinion of advocate Joe Bryce was sought in an effort to assist this particularly vulnerable client.  There has been chronic maladministration by HMRC, particularly in dealing with A8 Roma. There have been unreasonable information requests, unlawful retention of documents, a presumption of fraudulent behaviour, the imposition of different and unnecessary procedures and inordinate delay.

There was no progress in this case since the April 2012 when an appeal against the March 2012 decision because HMRC has never referred the appeal to the Tribunal.

GhLC solicitor Donna Morgan said: "Counsel was of the view that the client did not need to wait for the HMRC to notify her appeal to the Tribunal; she could do it herself, with our assistance. The Tax Credits Act 2002 permits this unusual approach, so far as we are aware this is the first successful appeal from an individual direct to the tribunal".

"Many direction notices were issued by tribunal services giving HMRC the opportunity to respond, which they failed to do to such an extent that HM Tribunal and Court Services found HMRC in contempt of court".

GhLC caseoworker, Jitka Perinova said: "Shortly thereafter HMRC issued letters confirming that backdated payment would be made from November 2010 to February 2013 would be paid.  Substantial sums totallling almost £20,000 have now been paid to our client improving her quality of life and that of her two children".

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