Clause 4 - Claims: supplementary

Part of Tax Credits Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 15th January 2002.

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Photo of Mr Paul Boateng Mr Paul Boateng Financial Secretary, HM Treasury, The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 4:45 pm, 15th January 2002

Claimants will be given the information required as and when it is necessary to inform them following any change in their circumstances. They do not want a barrage of correspondence. It is, however, important that they are aware of their entitlements and responsibilities, and the guidelines will make that clear. We must ensure that the Revenue is able to gather information to ensure that awards of tax credits are correct, and the Bill gives the Revenue all the powers that it needs to do that job. Where it is possible to keep awards running on the correct footing without asking claimants to fill in additional forms or to submit new claims, it must be right to do that. If the award is changed, and this has a direct bearing on the point made by the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), they must be told why.

I turn to the point made by the hon. Member for Northavon. Clause 3 makes it clear that couples will be required to make a joint claim for the tax credit. That means that we require them both to sign the initial application form. For many couples, however, entitlement to tax credits will run on relatively unchanged from year to year. For those couples, it is important to keep red tape to a minimum when it comes to renewing their claim at the beginning of each new tax year. In some cases, we plan to allow a claim to be renewed by one partner on behalf of the couple,

which is allowed for in subsection (1)(g). In those cases, the Inland Revenue would contact both partners to ensure that they were both aware of the basis on which the award had been renewed.

If a dispute arose about circumstances, the Inland Revenue would ultimately have to take a view. If it needed further information, it could seek it, and it would have to tell both couples its view. In those circumstances, it is vital that both couples should have the opportunity to make representations. Similarly both couples would have to know, and be able to determine, why a particular decision or course of action has been arrived at.