Have you missed out on tax credits?

HMRC failed to notify thousands of people of their entitlement to claim backdated tax credits. Subsequently, these people have not received the payments they should have.

HMRC are aware of the problem but, although they have amended their system to improve the situation for new claimants, they will not actively seek out those who have missed out on old claims.

Currently, HMRC can backdate payments for up to 31 days from the day they receive a new claim for tax credits, providing the claimant would have qualified for payments during that time. For claims made before 6 April 2012 the period available for backdated payments was 93 days. Certain circumstances, such as claiming the disability element of tax credits or being awarded refugee status, allows for backdating to cover an even longer stretch.

Some claimants have always received backdating automatically, and will continue to do so. Automatic backdating of up to 31 days is granted to; families claiming child tax credit only; families claiming both child tax credit and working tax credit and claimants who are no longer on certain benefits because they have started a new job.

Other groups of claimants, however, do not receive automatic backdating. This situation mainly affects those who claim working tax credit only. HMRC normally only pay these claimants from the date the claim is received.

Despite not all claimants receiving automatic backdating, it has always been the case that even those claiming only working tax credit are entitled to backdated payments for at least one month, or three months prior to 6 April 2012. However, up until recently, HMRC did not notify claimants of this fact or advise them on how to backdate a claim. This means that thousands have missed out on payments they were entitled to.

Although HMRC do now include information about backdating claims on their website and claim form notes, they will not be revisiting old claims unless asked to do so. The advice for claimants who think they have missed out on backdated payments, therefore, is to contact the tax credits office and ask them to look at their claim and entitlement to backdated payments. Even those who no longer claim tax credits can make this request.