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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Twin trauma
Having twins doesn't always mean twice the benefit

Working Lunch viewers who've had multiple births say the new tax credits are unfair.

Carlie Felts is expecting twins this summer and was shocked to discover that a special bonus for new babies would only apply to one of her children.

The 545 payment, spread over a year, is the "baby element" of the Child Tax Credit which was launched in April.

"This is highly unfair," complains Carlie.

"After all, if I had one baby this summer then another next summer, they would both be entitled to higher payments."

The Child Tax Credit is made up of a family element (also worth 545), the baby element (for one baby at a time) and a variable amount for each child, calculated according to household income.

A family with three children, no new baby and an income of 10,000 could receive as much as 4,880 from the credit.

But as household income increases, the variable child element begins to fall. Once income reaches 58,000, the credit disappears.

So middle and higher-income families would tend to receive only the 545 family element, plus another 545 payment for the year in which a baby is born.

The Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMBA) is starting a campaign to persuade ministers to widen the scope of the baby element.

Helen Forbes, director of TAMBA, says that families are very aggrieved by this.

"If you have two or three babies at once, the cost is far more than if you have them over a number of years.

"If you have triplets you have no option but to buy three cots, three high-chairs, three car-seats all at once with no option of handing down equipment.

"It's hugely more expensive."

A spokesman for the Inland Revenue defended the Tax Credit, pointing out that households on low incomes could claim the child element for each new child, providing a substantial boost to their finances.

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