Government demands for the repayment of tax credits that it had overpaid are making many poor families’ pips squeak. Figures revealed by HM Revenue Customs, after parliamentary questions asked by the LibDems, show that:
"Almost 200,000 families in the lowest 10% on the income scale were
forced to repay £3,400 after they were overpaid tax credits in the year
to April 2005. The repayment demand is more than a hundred times the
amount levied from the most affluent 10% of families."
It isn’t surprising of course that affluent families have less tax credits to pay back, but then neither is the maladministration and the heavy-handed way the Treasury have gone about this. Poor families have to budget very carefully so callously demanding so much money back after giving it out is a real kick in the teeth.
As of July, errors made administrating tax credits had cost the taxpayer an amazing £1.1bn. HM Revenue &
Customs are in the process of reforming the system, but Mark Francois, the Shadow Paymaster General, has criticised the plans for being piecemeal:
"This is yet another example of how Gordon Brown’s
over-complicated tax credits system is costing the taxpayer. This new
change, which will cost the Treasury an additional £850m to implement
over the next four years, will still only reduce the number of
overpayments by a third."
This record is Brown’s achilles heel. We need to emphatically highlight how his methods for helping the vulnerable have not only failed but often exacerbated the situation. As John Redwood will point out on GMTV, for example, his stealth taxes have disproportionately hit poor, hard-working families. If we can shatter any lingering perceptions of Brown’s social justness, we can take No.10.