Universal credit and tax credit debt collection… wtf is going on here. My god

Updates at the end of this post

Let’s finish the week as we started it – ie trying to make sense of the Universal Credit “system”:

I just finished speaking to the young Universal Credit claimant I wrote about earlier in the week. Readers of this site will be familiar with this woman’s story. This woman must carry out her Universal Credit compliance activities through Croydon jobcentre even though she lives in Colchester. She’s also been having £100+ deducted from her Universal Credit payments each month to repay a Universal Credit advance payment – the advance payments that David Gauke assures us will help people avoid (don’t laugh) the debts caused by delays in Universal Credit payments.

Now, the DWP has landed another debt on this young woman. This is a tax credit debt that she is sure she does not owe. The DWP has suddenly (this week) started deducting £25 a month from this woman’s Universal Credit payments. That’s another £25 gone each month from this woman’s money. She didn’t expect this deduction (at all) and she hasn’t budgeted for it. You see what I mean when I say that the state keeps broadsiding people with debts they can’t pay.

To cut a long story short:

This woman was among the many affected by the Concentrix tax credit scandal last year. The HMRC claimed she was living with someone (she wasn’t – like many caught up in the Concentrix debacle, she’d never even heard of the person she was accused of living with).

To start, the HMRC told her she owed a couple of thousand pounds in tax credit overpayments. Fighting that took months and endless phone calls which often required her to spend literally ages on hold. The amounts that the HMRC said this woman owed changed all over the place. Deductions were made from her benefit payments. This went on for an absolute age. I remember it well. The stress it all caused was extreme.

Earlier this year, this woman was told that she now owed about £1382 in child tax credit overpayments. She says nobody could tell her why. Then, the deductions for these so-called “overpayments” from her benefits stopped for a couple of months. She thought that meant the HMRC had decided she was right to say she owed nothing. Last month, no overpayment deductions were taken from her Universal Credit payment. There was relief all round. That really did seem to be the end of that.

Then last night, the woman looked at her Universal Credit account – and saw a message saying that £25 would be taken out for tax credit overpayments. She had absolutely no idea where that figure came from and/or why the message suddenly turned up. As I say, she wasn’t expecting it and certainly hadn’t budgeted for it. That money must now come from money set aside for other bills. This is why people fall into rent arrears, just by the way. People literally have no idea how much money they’ll get from month to month. Surprise deductions are made from their Universal Credit payments and people are not prepared. They have to try and find the shortfall at extremely short notice.

The woman says that trying to get to the bottom of things on the phone today has been an absolute nightmare and then some. The HMRC couldn’t “help” any more. Her (supposed) tax credit debt apparently now belongs to the DWP, because she is a Universal Credit claimant. Tax credits and debt apparently now come under the auspices of the DWP for some UC claimants (be afraid of that. These people literally couldn’t find their own arses with a searchlight. How they will manage the intensely complex tax credits and tax credit debt system – which was already a shambles – I do not know).

Or maybe I do. The woman says she called the Universal Credit helpline. They told her to talk to the DWP’s debt management department. Debt management said that she owed over £80 in tax credit overpayments. She asked how that could be. Other figures were bandied about. She said the numbers and figures didn’t add up. Debt management told her to call the tax credits helpline number. She called the tax credits helpline number. Tax credits told her to call Universal Credit..I just called the Universal Credit helpline to ask how all this should work. They told me to ring the DWP’s debt management line…

You get the picture.

More soon. I’m going for a drink.

Updates 8 October

  • The woman in this post says that after a lot of debate, DWP debt management agreed to send her a breakdown of the tax credit overpayment amount she supposedly owes. She must wait a fortnight for that statement to arrive. The DWP confirmed that it was managing tax credit debt when I rang on Friday.
  • Apparently, the HMRC should send people a letter called ‘Your tax credits overpayment’ (TC1131) if their tax credits debt is transferred to the DWP. Has anyone actually received on of these?
  • People have left comments on facebook to say that they’ve also had tax credit debt repayments deducted from their Universal Credit payments – between £40 and £60 per payment. Deductions stop and then start again.

The woman in this post says she takes screenshots of her Universal Credit account most days, because she doesn’t trust information in it not to change. Several months ago, she received a message in her Universal Credit account to say that £528 would be deducted from her Universal Credit account for overpayments. That notice frightened her. She couldn’t understand where the £528 amount had come from and she sure as hell couldn’t afford to lose £528 that month.

Here’s that notice:

This is a shambles.

34 thoughts on “Universal credit and tax credit debt collection… wtf is going on here. My god

    • Good shout. These calls are really problematic. Gauke needs to acknowledge that as well and put in free lines, not charged-for rubbish. I really mean that. People often ask me if I’d mind calling for them on my phone because mine’s contract and not all of these calls are charged to it.

  1. Everyone affected who is told different things by different people is needing to start maladministration complaints. Seriously, deluge them with maladministration complaints AND copy in MPs and local counsellors with every single individual correspondence . People really need to get together and strategise. Right now, individuals are feeling powerless. Get together, work together – use beurocracy against beurocracy.

  2. It is high time that more public attention was given to just how nasty Universal Credit really is. But this what happens when you let an extremist like Duncan-Smith make up a new welfare system. Chaos and cruelty.

    • Iain Duncan Smith shouldn’t even be allowed to play with scissors. No one should have ever put him in charge of anything, not even the broom cupboard.

    • I’m getting £42.00 this month on universal credit not the £319.00 I’m supposed to get. DWP have taking £80.00 out for an overpayment £25.90 for a loan whilst I was waiting and 170.00 because I was paid my holiday pay from my previous job unbelievable !!! it’s disgusting that I have worked all my life and this is how I get treated ☹️ Sad times

  3. If only the Labour Party would demand an immediate halt to the roll-out of Universal Credit. But they don’t. They sit in corners hand-wringing and muttering about ‘unfair sanctions.’
    For pity’s sake Jeremy Corbyn, be a bit less like Jesus Christ, and a bit more like Julius Caesar. Be a leader, and lead from the front in this.

    I had rather be first in a village than second at Rome.
    Julius Caesar 100BC – 44BC

    • I know, theyve said and done sweet FA. Labour should be screaming blue murder about this evil, nasty, shambolic bullshit that is being inflicted upon us, but I think they secretly support the idea of universal credit and nothing will change until we’re tripping over bodies in the streets.

      • You would think they’d get stuck in asap with the tax credits issues… general rollout is still a way off, but that’s a group of voters they want.

    • A HALT to the roll out ?
      Then what,, I stay suffering on UC, whilst the majority of other claimants carry on getting tax credits, housing benefit, etc and zero harassment – oblivious to what’s eventually around the corner for them ?
      8 million or so people who never bothered about my plight.
      Better speed up the roll out so the wave of anger grows rapidly even exponentially, not at the current trickle, a slow rate designed so everyone is slowly caught and individually conditioned.
      Jeremy Corbyn a idiot, he will just flood the country with immigrants and make the poor even poorer, and give all the plum, cheap social housing and non-jobs to the newcomers just to rub the noses of the working class British in diversity, and get a warm feeling in his middle class tummy.
      In other words nothing would change.
      Maybe a strong leader like Julius Ceaser would not be a bad thing, at least if we could find a benevolent dictator who would put British people first. Maybe Tommy Robinson!!

      • Immigrants, too, have been maligned, Eddie.

        Smear stories are used to cut people off from potential allies. Oppressors would be delighted with how mistreating you and telling you lies about potential allies has weakened your position.

        Something I heard at a Quaker Meeting in 1978 when I was in my 25th year has stood me in good stead for coping better against mis-treatment: “When people are lonely, maybe they ought to consider how they have turned bridges of connection with others into walls that isolate them.”

        A halt or pause to UC roll-out could be a turning point to your getting better treatment. Think about it. The fact that you have been abused by the system is no excuse for hating others.

  4. My daughter has been told she owes over £7,000, but no one can tell her why or how this happened? Concentrix again. No idea what to do, no matter who we speak to no one can tell us what this debt is for.

  5. This whole system is a bloody farce including the governments obsession of how great it all is to claim tax credits in the first place.One thing they all seriously dont get is people who are struggling already financially and particularly if their in very low paid jobs or unemployed is they dont want their already dire circumstances enhanced anymore.

    Gov carry on regardless; have not a clue.

    • It’s a farce alright. A monumental shambles. And of course they don’t have a clue, theyre all bloody millionaires, upper class twats who don’t even know the price of a bottle ofmilk. They live in a different world to the rest of us. Could they live on what I get? £69 per week (i.e. £73 JSA less £4 Council Tax). No, could they fuck. I got my fortnight’s dole 2 days ago & there’s hardly owt left, & I still have a Water payment to make due in 2 days, £9.20, & phone on fifteenth (another twelve quid), that leaves me with nowt for gas/electric. And it’s not down to bad budgeting, there’s nothing to budget with!

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  10. Shambles is the word… I have been told 3 lots of deductions totalling £120 are coming out of my first UC payment that I haven’t even received yet & I only know what £40 of these so called overpayments deductions are for – the advance of UC, the other £80 is for god know what.

    I have tried to establish with the DWP debt management team, job centre, UC helpline & the local council what they may / might be 4 & how they’ve come about.

    Nobody can give me a straight answer – passed from pillar to post & having to call all 4 (on numerous occasions) of the above excuses for organisations – each blaming the other and telling me they can not help and i’m still none the wiser after 3/4 hours on the phone.

    Not going to even be left with enough payment to cover my rent – let alone a single other thing !!

    Shambles is not the word !

  11. You gave to prepare if you are on Universal Credit. Apparently the payments take ages to go through, so when you first sign up it takes a long time until they cash out. So you have to get an advance, in order to pay your rent. It sucks, all I can see is people in debt and screwed over, something nobody had to deal with in the past. The Government were warned that it Universal Credit go wrong but they don’t care. I think that is what they want, people to lose stuff, and be forced to pay out. Because doesn’t the money make its way back to them (or at least some of it) when you are in debt?

  12. I’ve just spent ages writing a note in my journal, asking someone to help me as a deduction of nearly £80 has been taken from my UC payment this month for an old tax credit debt. I have no problem with paying off my debt, but previous to my partner leaving, our joint repayment on the debt, per month, was £30! UC gave me no prior warning that they were going to deduct £80 from this month’s payment. How can they do that? Without discussing, sending a letter/email, or anything?? It’s a bloody disgrace! This Universal Credit is the worst thing EVER. To add insult to injury, I pressed ‘save’ on the message that I’ve just spent ages typing, as I wanted to go back to it later and add a few facts and figures, and now it has completely disappeared. I can’t find it saved anywhere on my account. So now I am going to have to waste even more of my day off work, messing about and trying to remember everything I put in the first message, and re-typing it a second time. I’m quite sure that the way UC is set up, is to make it as difficult and stressful for everyone applying. When I first made my claim, I had to make frequent trips to my local job centre (even though I work full time, don’t have a car, and have little time to deal with these things). It took numerous phone calls, emails and trips to said job centre, to finally get my payment right. And now they have the cheek to make massive deductions without asking, or even informing me of the intention to do so. I’m furious. I’m in my current predicment through no fault of my own. My parner left, he took, his wages with him, left me with a massive credit card debt, a high rent, and many other bills to pay. I don’t want to claim benefits, but at this time in my life I have no choice. I’m so disgusted with the way UC is managing this benefit. They’ve made a very upsetting and stressful time in my life, much MUCH worse, and I’m sure the same goes for many other claimants too.

  13. I have gone thru all if the above.no warning of deductions .I was told they can take 40% of my personal allowance for fines and council tax and loans..i explained i am paying more now than when i was working..i asked if there was anyone who I could talk to as I was in a crisis .answer was “I DON’T THINK SO “. ended up talking to a girl who kept putting me on hold to ask her manager for answers.bills won’t be paid this month.40% wtf is going on.

  14. I did paperwork yesterday only to find a debt collector letter. Not only did I not get tax credits last year but now they want over £3000 paying back. I have low paid job and been on sick for near 2 months. Only got less than £2000 in bank and need pay gas, electric, water, sky and mortgage.
    I’m mortified a debt collector is after me. Use to be benifit office had own Panel for dealing with benifit over or under payments. It didn’t go to debt collectors.
    The reason I’m struggling paying bills (even though I’m working) is because I’ve not received tax credits as they claim they didn’t receive the form I filled in.

  15. I was put on Universal Credit when I was in Bristol, where there was full UC roll-out last year, 2017. However, I couldn’t get housing benefit as I couldn’t afford private rented accommodation, and was living in a backpack hostel charged at £360 a month. This was not in the eligibility guidelines so I was referred to the council. The council told me I couldn’t apply for housing benefit because I was on UC.

    I moved back to Scotland where UC had not gone fully live yet in most areas; the job centers didn’t even have the systems to update my new address or book in an appointment – I had to call the helpline to do that.

    As I was having a mental breakdown in Bristol, sectioned to a hospital and on return to Scotland where I have family, I received excellent and very fast mental health support from a network of professionals. I was advised by Doctors, mental health nurses, my CPN, key worker, case worker and housing officer to apply for ESA (Employment Support Allowance) while I was still able to do so. I was advised by ESA that I had to shut down my UC in order to apply for ESA.

    I then called ESA to apply and told I couldn’t apply for ESA because I was previously on Universal Credit. I then received a letter from the debt collection team that I owed £122 for the advance payment of UC I received 8 months earlier, in August 2017. My UC benefit was £360 but I have never been paid more than £280 a month. My math isn’t great but surly a deduction of £120 x 8 months is substantially more than the advance payment of £360.

    The letter arrived 1 week after it was written. I called the debt team helpline. As I am not working and not on benefits, and sofa surfing in a friends house I will be issued with a summary notice to attend court, where court costs will also apply, and if I can not pay the outstanding UC amount + court costs I may face a custodial sentence of up to 6 months in jail.

    As far as I can tell, the only crime I committed was being mentally unwell and unfit for work. Is this now considered a crime? What should I do?

    • Good grief, what a bloody shambles they’ve made of the Social Security system, that people can be put in a nightmarish situation like this. You could try Citizens Advice I suppose, and/or contact your MP for help to get this mess sorted out. I don’t know what else. It’s unbelievable that the mainstream media & the Rightwingers continue to focus their efforts & energy on attacking & smearing Corbyn instead of attacking the Tories who are responsible for this sort of diabolical treatment of the sick, the poor, the unemployed & the most vulnerable. I hope you get it sorted Steve.

  16. Wow just spoke to dwp they said that I had a tax credit £200 debt owed from last year .
    There has been and I was told there has been no payment made to it.
    Universal credit have been taking £124.00 since October for tax credit recovery that’s a lot of money for no reason. So my journey for answers begins.

  17. I’ve just been paid u/c £69 they have deducted £199.14 off us for a £308.28 overpayment from HMRC I rang HMRC yesterday to set up a payment plan and was told it had been transferred to DWP I’ve had no letters off either party before this deduction we had £7 a week after the bills are paid this benefit needs stopping I am suicidal literally robbing Peter to pay Paul I’ve only been on u/c for 12 mths and it’s pushing us into debt big time. This government body do not have any empathy,feelings or morals they get paid god knows how many thousands of pounds a year whilst pushing thousands of people into debt and over the edge how many more suicides are needed before something is done

    • No more suicides are needed, just the deaths by hanging of IDS, Lord Freud, David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May, and Esther McVey. Build a gallows and hang ’em high.

  18. Pingback: Found a job – but can’t afford childcare. Universal Credit won’t help up front. This is ridiculous | Kate Belgrave

  19. UC is a joke, I’ve gone through this before, it reminds me of my nightmare last year when moving out of a care home into a bungalow.
    It don’t end there though! today I just got slapped in the face with a surprise letter stating I owe £617 in overpayments “I’m not entitled to” yet moving from ESA to them made me loose £360 a month just cause of the transfer, I had no rights and no say in the matter, despite me voicing out how I’ll treated I was, I think the most insulting thing is they dare say I’m not entitled to it? It’s ridiculous and a load of crap.
    People vulnerable/ unable to work should be protected from financial difficulties and systems like this made to MAKE it harder to live a normal stable life as possible- I myself struggle to find work due to an illness that affects me daily, but do they give a sh*t of course not!
    I can sympathise with others on this thread.
    And I hope this sh*tty system is thrown in the trash, but I doubt it while ever people are being drained dry.

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