No more tax credit suspensions until Concentrix delays cleared, campaigners urge

HM Revenue and Customs should ensure that Concentrix do not suspend or stop any more tax credit payments until the problems which are preventing tax credit claimants from raising queries by phone or post have been resolved, campaigners for those on low incomes have said.

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) report that they have experienced a significant spike in the last two weeks in contact from tax credit claimants who are unable to get through to the main Concentrix helpline number, although they have seen – and made representations to HMRC about – problems with poor service levels going right back to the start of the contract with Concentrix taking effect in November 2014.

The Group has produced a Question and Answer guide on its website to help tax credit claimants who have received a letter from, or are struggling to contact, Concentrix.

Anthony Thomas, the Group’s Chairman, said: “We hope our question and answer document will help those who have had their payments stopped to get them reinstated where that is appropriate, and those who are experiencing hardship because they cannot get through to Concentrix to find ways of resolving the difficult situation in which they find themselves.”

In an article posted on LITRG’s website today, the Group says:

“While HMRC’s helplines have been steadily improving since the middle of 2015/16, call waiting times to Concentrix, the company HMRC have engaged to check tax credit claims, have dramatically worsened. Yesterday’s announcement that HMRC will not renew Concentrix’s contract when it expires in May 2017, and meanwhile will redeploy 150 HMRC staff to man the helplines, should go some way to alleviating the hardship caused by Concentrix’s poor performance to date.

“In November 2014, HMRC contracted with SYNNEX-Concentrix in order to increase their capacity to carry out checks on tax credit claims. The purpose of these checks is to ensure the accuracy of claims – for example that claims are made in the right capacity (joint or single) – and to correct those that are found to be wrong. Since then, Concentrix have carried out around 667,000 checks on behalf of HMRC.

“Since the beginning of the contract we have raised a number of concerns with HMRC about the quality of decision making and service offered by Concentrix.

“However, in the last two weeks, we have experienced a significant spike in contact from tax credit claimants who are unable to get through to the main Concentrix helpline number. Some people are faced with an engaged tone, whilst others report being on hold for up to an hour before eventually giving up.

“Even the most patient person would find this hugely frustrating, but many of the claimants who have contacted us are facing hardship because their tax credit payments have been stopped. Some are unaware of why the payments have stopped, but are advised only by the main HMRC tax credits helpline to contact Concentrix. Others say they have sent to Concentrix information that the company requested, but Concentrix have stopped their payments with no prior warning and no letters of explanation.

“The action now taken by HMRC should ensure that the helplines are better equipped to cope with the increased demand. In the interim, HMRC should ensure that Concentrix do not suspend or stop tax credit payments until both the postal delays and the telephone line issues are brought up to an acceptable standard.

“In the longer term, there should be a published review of the Concentrix contract both in terms of value for money for the taxpayer as well as the performance of Concentrix and the impact on claimants. This will be essential if HMRC decide to continue with a payment by results model of working with private companies in future. No doubt this could be an issue for consideration by the Public Accounts Committee in due course.”

Notes for editors

1, LITRG’s Q&A guide for tax credit claimants is at: http://www.litrg.org.uk/hmrc-tax-credit-checks-concentrix

2. Low Incomes Tax Reform Group

The LITRG is an initiative of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) to give a voice to the unrepresented. Since 1998 LITRG has been working to improve the policy and processes of the tax, tax credits and associated welfare systems for the benefit of those on low incomes.

3. Chartered Institute of Taxation

The CIOT is the leading professional body in the United Kingdom concerned solely with taxation. The CIOT is an educational charity, promoting education and study of the administration and practice of taxation. One of our key aims is to work for a better, more efficient, tax system for all affected by it – taxpayers, their advisers and the authorities. The CIOT’s work covers all aspects of taxation, including direct and indirect taxes and duties. The CIOT’s 17,600 members have the practising title of ‘Chartered Tax Adviser’ and the designatory letters ‘CTA’, to represent the leading tax qualification.