Jo yesterday led a debate on Parliament to highlight the problems that East Dunbartonshire families have faced with the complicated tax credits system.
Jo detailed a catalogue of failures that have caused financial hardship for local people, in particular where mistakes by the Tax Credits Office had led to overpayments of tax credits followed by sudden demands for repayment of thousands of pounds.
Commenting after the debate, Jo said:
“It is bad enough at the best of times that the tax credits system is putting extra financial strain on families, but in the current economic climate it is simply unacceptable. The stories I hear from constituents are absolutely shocking. Hard-working families should not be made to pay for the mistakes of government officials. The system must be simplified, and the Tax Credits Office made to take responsibility for its own mistakes instead of forcing claimants to shoulder the burden.”
Many families have spent the money credited to them, unaware that they have been overpaid, only to have the Tax Credits Office demand the money back from them. Others have been underpaid, while some have received confusing and contradictory letters about the level of their tax credit award.
Many eligible families do not claim tax credits at all, some because they have had bad experiences already. As one constituent put it when she wrote to Jo:
“I wish I had never received family tax credits and not because I don’t think it is a wonderful concept, but because of the way it is implemented.”