From 6 April 2012, some poor UK households may lose tax credits due to them because of inadequate communication by the government. Numerous low-income families already face drastic tax credit and welfare benefits cuts. But even some of those still entitled to child or working tax credit may not receive this.
Victoria Todd of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, interviewed by Paul Lewis on BBC Radio’s Money Box on 31 March, revealed that HM Revenue and Customs had sent misleading advice to many people. HMRC admitted that some of their letters were not as clear as they should have been.
Unless those at risk know their rights and inform the tax authorities about their circumstances, they may be reduced to severe poverty. Government ministers appear cavalier about their responsibility to make sure that those on low incomes get the increasingly meagre amounts to which they are due.
According to ancient Jewish law, “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbour's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep?” (Exodus 22.25-27).
A cloak is not worth a huge amount. But to those on low incomes, even small losses make a huge difference. Taking away £500 from a low-paid worker may have a greater impact than the loss of £500,000 to a government minister. The government’s unjust treatment of the badly-off, in contrast to its generosity to the rich, is disgraceful.
(c) Savi Hensman is a Christian writer and commentator on politics, society and religion. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the equalities and care sector.