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Tax Credits

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

14. How many people have appealed against a demand for return of overpayments of tax credits since April 2006; and if he will make a statement. (130452)

One of the 343,000 is Mrs. Anne Dalipi, who came to see me about such a demand 12 months ago and still has not received a satisfactory explanation of why she has to repay an overpayment. She does not know which payment is covered, and the bill does not state why there is an overpayment, or why she must pay it back. Given that her experience is typical, when will the Chief Secretary come to the House and explain that, unless the reasons that a repayment is required are detailed, the repayment will not be pressed?

The rule is pretty straightforward: an overpayment will be written off if it is due to departmental error, and if it is reasonable for the recipient to think that the award is correct. There is a process by which people can query and challenge decisions, through the adjudicator and even the ombudsman. A good process is in place, and if there is a particular issue in the case of the constituent to which the hon. Gentleman refers, I would be happy to examine that.

The number of my constituents suffering hardship as a result of having to repay overpayments shows no sign of diminishing. I have been seeking meetings with HMRC to discuss and resolve a number of particularly intractable cases since August last year. I contacted it in August, September, October and November, and in desperation wrote in December to the Paymaster General, who at least acknowledged the letter, but I have heard nothing from her since. When can I expect a reply?