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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Ads cause tax credit confusion
By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Family in living room
Money Box has been contacted by a number of confused families
An Inland Revenue advertising campaign has been causing confusion for people who receive tax credits.

The Inland Revenue adverts claim that if anyone misses the 30 September renewal deadline, their money will stop.

Tax credit forms are being sent to all the six million people who get child tax credit or working tax credit.

But two million of them need not return anything. And although the documents do say that, the advert does not.

I rang the local tax office and they held a straw poll and they concluded they were not very sure either
Tom, tax credit recipient
Tom from Ayrshire contacted the BBC's Money Box programme with his confusion. He explained:

"The form was sent to me originally; and it said if your circumstances remain unchanged, do not bother to send the form back.

"Then I saw the ads on TV which quite plainly said if you do not send the form back your payments will stop."

Different answers

The advertisements, running on TV, radio and in newspapers, say: "If you still have not returned your tax credit renewals form you must do so by the 30 September or your payments will stop."

Tom told the programme: "I was in a quandary what to do. I rang the local tax office and they held a straw poll and they concluded they were not very sure either."

So he rang the tax credits helpline and spoke to four people, who gave him three different answers.

"I felt confused," Tom said.

Accountant and tax credit expert Jane Moore of the Tax Faculty told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme who did have to send the form back:

"If you just get the basic level of family tax credit, that is 545 a year, you will have had an annual review form.

"But on page one it should say, 'if your income and circumstances have not changed you do not have to do anything'.

"That is because it does not matter too much how your income has changed so you do not have to send a form back."

Calculations

However, Ms Moore warned that other people whose documents did say the form had to be returned must do so by 30 September or they could lose money.

If anyone is unsure of what they need to do, they should contact our helpline
Revenue spokesperson
"What is happening is that the Inland Revenue is trying to do two things. One is to finalise tax credits for last year; and the other is to correctly calculate what you are due in 2004."

A spokesman for the Inland Revenue told the BBC that four million people had to send the form back, and added:

"The adverts state that if you need to return your tax credits renewals form please do so.

"We have provided claimants with literature explaining this, including the step-by-step guides enclosed with the renewals packs.

"If anyone is unsure of what they need to do, they should contact our helpline."


The helplines are: 0845 300 3900 (textphone 0845 300 3909 ), or in Northern Ireland 0845 603 2000 (textphone 0845 607 6078)

They are open from 0800 BST to 2200 BST, Monday to Friday, and 1000 BST - 1800 BST on Saturday and Sunday.



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