Would you credit it?

The new tax credits have been dogged by delays, which has left
many families facing financial hardship. But there is a system of
emergency payments. Neil Bateman outlines how to claim.

Delays in receiving the new tax credits from the Inland Revenue
(IR) have caused real difficulty for many people – particularly
those on low incomes with children.

There are several reasons for the delays: complexity inherent in
means-testing, more people claiming than had been anticipated (more
than 4.2 million), people not supplying all the information needed,
slower than expected computer systems and problems with some banks
not accepting payments.

Fortunately, things have improved, but benefit payment delays
are still not uncommon – particularly where detailed rules of
assessment can mean that a minor hiccup in the processing chain can
leave a customer destitute.

Such has been the scale of problems that the Inland Revenue (IR)
now has a system for making emergency payments to people who are
waiting to receive tax credits. Indeed, by the end of May (the
latest figures the IR provided) it had made about 200,000 such

The law doesn’t lay down a clear deadline for the IR to
process tax credit claims or for when they should make payment (as
is the case with other benefits) but in very serious cases of
delay, it may be possible to take legal action to force them to pay
up. One hopes that the IR’s emergency payments system will
prevent people having to go to such lengths.

If people are waiting for tax credits to come through, they
should contact their local IR enquiry office which is listed in the
telephone directory. The IR may also make home visits if people
can’t get to an office although they prefer that people come
into the office. Claimants will need to have copies of
correspondence with the IR about their claim including either an
award notice or a letter of acknowledgement, evidence of their
identity and address, national insurance number and some evidence
of why they need a payment such as an unpaid bill (in many cases
this will be self-evident). The IR can then make a payment on the

The feedback from welfare rights advisers is that the emergency
payments system does work and it quickly pays people without them
having to resort to unsatisfactory means such as social fund crisis
loans or moneylenders.

The lack of legal rights to emergency tax credit payments needs
addressing, but the fact that the system is working, shows that
when public opinion is roused by official failure, things get

Neil Bateman is a welfare rights specialist

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