Derry City and Strabane Distirct SDLP Councillor, Shauna Cusack, has urged the taxman to show greater generosity of Christmas spirit by allowing people found to have been overpaid in tax credits a reasonable grace period in which to pay back what is owed.
Colr. Cusack issued the call after the ‘Journal’ was contacted by one local taxpayer who received a letter of notice from the HMRC stating that they had been overpaid in tax credits for the tax year 2016/2017.
The taxpayer, who asked not to be named, said they were advised £1,200 was owed and that this needed to be paid back by December 19, just six days before Christmas.
Colr. Cusack said such cases were not unusual and she asked HMRC to show some understanding.
“For those living hand to mouth on benefits, Christmas is a deeply stressful and worrying time as they struggle to figure out how to cope with the extra financial expectations,” she said.
In cases where a clawback is demanded tax credit claimants can pursue a dispute of the sum in question.
However, this doesn’t delay the repayment date.
Colr. Cusack said the letters were unwelcome when many people are already dealing with the extra consumerist demands presented during the Christmas period.
She suggested the authorities should consider delaying such notices until the New Year.
“For HMRC to send these demands without thought or care for the suffering and added pressure they will put on already hard pressed families is nothing short of cruel,” said the Foyleside District Electoral Area (DEA) representative.
“I would call on HMRC to review this operation and find some way of giving people reprieve so they can at least get through the festive season without these demands hanging over them,” said Colr. Cusack.