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13 Dec 2005 : Column 1835W—continued

Tax Credits

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the false use of Department for Work and Pensions staff identities in fraudulent tax credit claims. [35727]

Dawn Primarolo: I am aware that a number of DWP staff appear to have had their details used by others to claim tax credits. This matter is now the subject of a criminal investigation involving HMRC and DWP therefore it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people have been employed by his Department in dealing with complaints about tax credits in each month since April 2003. [20014]

Dawn Primarolo: The information is not available.

It is not possible to isolate the total number of people employed by HM Revenue and Customs to deal with complaints about tax credits. Staff in various parts of the Department may handle complaints about tax credits, but for most this would be in addition to other work.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what assessment he has made of the reasons why people have been overpaid tax credits; [23213]

(2) what assessment he has made of the reasons why people have been overpaid tax credits in Northern Ireland. [25780]

Dawn Primarolo: Analysis of overpayments suggests that they result from a number of factors: income rises from one year to the next; families overestimating the extent to which their income has fallen when they seek extra support during the year; provisional payments made at the start of the tax year, which are based on out-of-date information that is subsequently updated when the award is renewed; and delays in reporting changes in families' personal circumstances to HMRC.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the recent performance of the tax credits system. [36087]

Dawn Primarolo: I would refer the hon. Member to my statement to the Treasury sub-committee of 26 October 2005, HC 524-ii and my written statement of 5 December 2005, Official Report, column 55WS.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library copies of the minutes of meetings (a) held between HM Revenue and Customs and the former Inland Revenue and the HMRC Tax Credits Consultation Group and (b) of the related working parties since 2003. [36225]

Dawn Primarolo: The work of the Consultation Group is covered by a confidentiality agreement. HMRC values the skills and expertise of the group and does not wish to lose the ability to discuss policy matters in confidence.
 
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Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many notifications of a change of address by recipients of tax credit awards have been received in each month since April 2003. [36794]

Dawn Primarolo: The information requested is not available.

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the likely cost of paying tax credits from April 2006 to claimants when their income rises by less than £25,000, as announced by the Paymaster General on 5 December. [36826]

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of increasing the income disregard for tax credits to £25,000 in each of the next three years; [36839]

(2) what estimate he has made of the savings arising from requiring families to return their tax credit renewal forms by the end of August in each of the next three years; [36840]

(3) what estimate he has made of the effect on public funds over the next three years of assuming a family's income rises in line with average earnings while waiting for income information relating to the renewal of a tax credit award. [37143]

Dawn Primarolo: The cost of the measures announced on 5 December, including the rises in the disregard to £25,000 and shortening the renewal date to the end of August, are set down in table 1.2 of the 2005 pre-Budget report (Cm6701). It is not possible to produce robust estimates of the impact of individual elements of the package of measures as there are significant interactions between the different components.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many and what proportion of families receiving tax credits he expects HM Revenue and Customs to contact over the next three years to check if there have been any changes in income or circumstances. [36841]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave to him on 28 November 2005, Official Report, column 83W regarding HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) pro-active pilot. HMRC will consider the findings of the pilot carefully to determine the benefits of introducing pro-active customer contact as part of its day-to-day business, how many families to contact and when.

As I stated in my written statement to the House on 5 December 2005, from 2007 HMRC plan to contact key groups of claimants near to the renewals window to obtain more up-to-date information on which to base the next year's payments while the finalisation process is completed. Information on the numbers that HMRC will contact is not yet available.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the National Audit Office has informed him that it intends to begin an investigation into the introduction of the new tax credits. [37144]

Dawn Primarolo: I have not been informed of any plans to conduct such an investigation. The content of the National Audit Office's work programme is a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General.
 
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Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many complaints have been received by the hon. Members' tax credit hotline in the last 12 months. [37238]

Dawn Primarolo: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) does not keep separate records of the number of calls to its MP Hotline facility that involve a complaint.

Tax Returns

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many tax returns were filed incorrectly by individuals in (a) 2002, (b) 2003 and (c) 2004; and what measures were undertaken by HM Customs and Revenue to ensure that those individuals who filed incorrect statements and subsequently paid too much tax were reimbursed promptly and efficiently. [36279]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC assess the accuracy of filed self assessment tax returns using its automated risk assessment system and through an annual random inquiry programme. Figures are not yet available for the years requested because all inquiries must be completed before analysis. If, upon capture of the information on the return, a repayment of tax is found to be due, the repayment is made automatically from the computer system.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average (a) direct and (b) indirect cost per Pay as you Earn return was in the last period for which figures are available; and what the average cost per self-assessment online return was in that period. [36284]

Dawn Primarolo: The current averaged direct cost (paybill) of processing a paper self assessment return is £5.46. Indirect costs (overheads excluding IT) are a further £4.42. (HMRC are unable to differentiate costs between those self assessment tax returns relating to PAYE taxpayers and those returns relating to others).

The current averaged cost of processing an online self assessment return are direct costs £0.97 and indirect costs a further £0.62.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent estimate he has made of the loss of tax revenue in a year consequent on errors in tax returns; and what guidance he (a) has issued and (b) plans to issue to reduce the number of such errors. [36297]

Dawn Primarolo: HMRC assesses the accuracy of filed returns using its automated risk assessment system and through an annual random inquiry programme. This was reported in the NAO report Filing of Income Tax Self- Assessment Returns" that was published on 22 June 2005 and can be found on the NAO's website at http://www.nao.org.uk/.

HMRC helps taxpayers file accurate returns through the information and support available on its website, telephone call centres and helplines, inquiry centres, written guidance, and through its tax offices. HMRC's enabling programme seeks to improve the accuracy of future tax returns through targeted intervention and guidance.
 
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Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will make available guidance to those who make a mistake when completing on-line self-assessment tax returns; [36298]

(2) what steps his Department takes to offer guidance to an individual who makes a mistake when completing an on-line self-assessment tax return. [36299]

Dawn Primarolo: Guidance for completing self-assessment returns is available online at: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/individuals/tmaself-assessment.shtml.

Customers completing a self-assessment return online are guided through the return and are only asked questions that are relevant to their return. Help is available through help buttons on questions and context sensitive help for technical terms and phrases.

There are on screen validation checks as the user moves between pages and the whole return is validated before submission to ensure that the data provided is arithmetically correct and that all relevant questions have been completed.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) why HM Revenue and Customs reduced the target e-filing tax returns by 2005 to 25 per cent.; and what recent assessment he has made of whether that target will be reached; [36302]

(2) what recent assessment he has made of progress towards the national target of 35 per cent. of electronic filing of tax returns by 2007–08. [36303]

Dawn Primarolo: The Modernising Government White Paper initially set a target that 100 per cent. of all Government services were to be available online by 2005, and a 50 per cent. take-up of those services should be achieved. This was reflected in the Inland Revenue Public Service Agreement 2001–04.

The Inland Revenue revised this overarching target based on their understanding of the market and set specific targets for each of the services it provides. These were agreed with the Treasury.

The departmental Public Service Agreements for 2003–06 and 2005–08 are posted on the HMRC Internet site. HMRC has a target of 25 per cent. of SA returns filed electronically 2005–06 and 35 per cent. by 2007–08.

HM Revenue and Customs expects to achieve its target of 35 per cent. of Self Assessment tax returns received online by March 2008.


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