November 8, 2003
Peter Smith, his wife and two teenage children, have put their west country home up for sale after six months of wrestling with the Inland Revenue.
"I've got to do it while we're still solvent. If I leave it any longer it will be a forced sale," he says.
Mr Smith, who has asked for his real name to be withheld, is one of the losers under the new tax credit system. Not that he understands how this happened. He has suffered from multiple sclerosis for the past three years and survives on disability benefit, council tax benefit and his wife's part-time wages.
"During February and March this year I contacted the Revenue helpline and obtained over the course of three or four discussions different assessments of what my family's working tax credit and child tax credit would be and whether or not it was safer to remain with the package we already had.
"After much reflection we decided to go with the flow and sign up. After all the delays, that I know thousands of other people experienced too, the actual payment turned out to be 60% less than our current income.
"After many phone calls this was raised so we were 40% out of pocket. Then in August our WTC payment was halved. We were told it was a computer error. This was sorted out. But in October we received another award notice saying we had been overpaid by £1,098. Our WTC payments were frozen and our CTC cut by £40 a week. It happened instantly.
"We now have £500 a month missing compared with the old system. I have tried to complain, but can't get through on the complaints helpline."
Last week, Treasury minister Dawn Primarolo hailed the new tax credits system a "massive success". She said 5.9m people had registered and were receiving payments - a 98% success rate.
Mr Smith disagrees and says his failure to even make a formal complaint
has pushed him to considering taking legal action, supported by a friend
who is a solicitor.
Copyright © 2003, Guardian Newspapers Limited