Imagine having brain surgery, knowing it is being done by someone fresh out of Sixth Form College, and performed using a blow torch and a spatula. It’s an obvious given that it’s not going to work, it will hurt and it will waste time.
In line with this, imagine your house is on fire and they send a milk float driven by a Learner, equipped with a couple of Super Soakers filled with almond milk. Again, pointless.
However, HMRC’s Tax Credit system – so complicated that I recently met an Accountant who couldn’t get their head round it, is set-up with the efficiency of a chocolate tampon; it’s non-mathematical workers having no access to the pseudo system in place. In a world where I seek the sunshine in every situation, I can only reach for an attempt at satire to reduce my boiling blood today. After weeks of calls, letters and crying to Houses of Parliament staff, I today, after 90 minutes of pleading, finally broke a member of HMRC staff who held his hands up and said that the entire system is an absolute pile of shit that none of the staff could use. This guy is a hero of listening and honesty, succeeding where others have turned an ignorant cheek and carried a level of empathy aligned with those in charge of NHS purse-strings. Without this man in my day, I may have drunk my body weight in Absinthe.
I now understand the non-system and I will share it to publicly shame how it is costing parents and also the public money, unnecessarily. I shall make this super fun by using a case study, as HMRC like to do. Here we go…
Beryl is an unassuming quiet lady in her 40’s, with thick-set glasses and surprisingly athletic thighs. She lives with her Partner, Wayne, a 39 year old mobile DJ specialising in European thrash metal, and is a stay-at-home mum to their 2 year old son, Len. Out of the blue, Wayne leaves Beryl, informing her of this via Snapchat, for a 19 year old Cage Dancer. A defiant Beryl pulls up her socks, refuses to claim benefits and takes a series of full time admin jobs, until finally securing a permanent post as a Medical Writer, based on her previous career achievements. The tax credits system is there to help her pay for her childcare and costs of living. Beryl is thankful. During this time, Beryl adheres to the ‘Please advise of your anticipated annual childcare costs, presented as a weekly average’ request from HMRC. She writes the following letter to HMRC (knowing that she must not trust giving this information solely over the phone):
My annual childcare costs will be £5,200 which equates to £100 a week (£5200/52 = £100).
This reflects my son being in a full time nursery placement until September, and costs reducing to out-of-school care when he goes to school in September.
Love Beryl x
Despite being simple, these figures cause HMRC a level of indecision that is aligned to them having to choose between sparing the life of one of their parents and letting the other face a firing squad. They send Beryl 14 different statements of what financial help they will give her, settling on £100 a week as her figure to base this on. (You can see what they’ve done there…). Beryl saves as many pennies as she can, in case they leave her in the shit. Then Beryl throws a curve ball….
She changes her circumstances!!! The poor cow has no idea of the wrath she is about to feel.
After repeatedly running into after-school club with 2 minutes to spare, delirious with hunger, and then trying to shoe-horn cooking a meal, Len’s homework and bath into 50 minutes, Beryl can take no more. Len is nearly 5 and she has given this set-up a real go – but admits defeat. Aside from this, Beryl’s boss is as pleasant as projectile vomit in the face, and treats her like dog pooh on her designer shoes. In February, nearing the end of the financial year, Beryl leaves her job and becomes a dinner lady for a local school, around Len’s school hours. She loves her new job. Everyone is happy. Accept HMRC. They are never happy. Unless people are crying.
Beryl phones HMRC to inform them of her new job. At which point they ask for her current childcare costs – which are nothing, aside from the odd ad hoc place at times of desperate need. They cut all Beryl’s money. Beryl explains that her average childcare costs across the year remain almost the same, now around £96 a week. HMRC review Beryl’s file and delete the log of childcare from the start of school in September – labelling Beryl a benefit fraud for claiming average, and not actual costs of childcare. Beryl explains she was asked for average costs and waves her previews correspondence. “It’s not our problem, you were responsible to get it right” she is told, a different member of staff then confirming “Yes, we ask for average costs but the system can’t use them.” Beryl therefore asks if the system can reflect her actual costs, as they have fluctuated over the year. “No.”
Beryl is told to pay £1,300 back. She gets some extra hours work to pay for this and her friend looks after Len, but she is then penalised for earning over an imaginary threshold and has to pay more money back. She is also penalised for saving money – as this deems her to have been paid too much, despite having lived off about £45 a week in order to save.
Beryl writes a nice letter with all her evidence, she even includes a print-off of the Gingerbread single parents Tax Credit advice on submitting average childcare costs. Beryl sends this information many times, and eventually copies in her local MP – explaining that the system could also be costing the government thousands of pounds in circumstances where people’s childcare costs go up during the financial year – in view that they would be claiming an average, but then default onto an ‘actual’ cost. If Beryl had done it this way she would have made well over a £1,000. Silly Beryl.
Beryl’s MP can’t help but his Case Worker and PA are very polite. Beryl understands that the MPs are very busy demolishing the NHS.
Beryl dries her tears over the now £1700 she is out of pocket, remembers that she loves her job and that she has a beautiful little boy, and she writes a blog on her circumstances, hoping that it goes viral and sparks a little compassion in the people who took her money, thinking she was just a single mother as a result of a drunken shag in the toilets of the Pig and Whistle nightclub. She sends a virtual hug to her local MP with the message ‘Don’t worry my Love, I’ll take this from here.’
Beryl feels better now. And she hasn’t had to consume any Absinthe, which is a blessing.
(Thank you for reading – please share this post from the share buttons below, in the hope it will spare others the same pain…).