Benefit Or Tax Credit Overpayment Help

Local councils are continuing to turn towards bailiffs to collect bills as household debt continues to rise.

£19 billion is owed in everyday bills (as of August 2018) according to information from Citizens Advice, with the charity helping one person every three minutes over bailiff issues. The charity has also gone as far as calling for better regulation of unaccountable bailiff firms that use aggressive tactics.

The biggest debt that households are currently facing in the UK revolves around tax credit overpayments. £7.47 billion of tax credit overpayments have been made which need to be paid back – it seems that local councils are increasingly turning to bailiffs to chase up the payments, though, which is causing some families distress.

Tax credit or benefit overpayments can be made for a number of reasons; it could be due to a change in a person’s circumstances or, amazingly, due to errors on the part of HM Revenue & Customs.

Even if that is the case though and you’ve been overpaid tax credits or benefits, the chances are that your local council will likely get in touch with a bailiff as their first port of call to try and get that money back.

It’s an issue that has led not just to Citizens Advice to call for action when it comes to the tactics used by bailiffs, but the National Audit Office (NAO) has also weighed into the argument and called for change.

In a report published toward the end of 2018, the NAO has claimed that funding pressures and cuts at local government level are causing local authorities to pursue debts such as tax credit overpayments “too quickly and aggressively”.

At a local level too, less than 20% of councils are using the established best-practice template in how to assess affordability of repayments – in many cases, they’re simply employing bailiffs to go around to a person’s house to demand repayments, which can be especially stressful if an overpayment was due to an error on HMRC’s part.

Stress is something of an understatement, too. If people are having to get by on tax credits or benefits, then it’s fair to assume they may not be in the best of places financially. Having a bailiff come to your door employing aggressive tactics can only exasperate the situation, with the NAO stating it can even affect people’s mental health.

Intimidating actions and additional charges on over-indebted people are 15-29% more likely to make debts harder to manage or increase the risk of mental illness according to modelling from the NAO, with poor debt collection practices going a long way to increasing anxiety and even triggering depression.

If you have overpaid tax credits to return and are being hassled by a bailiff, you have rights. For instance, you’re not obliged to let them into your home, do not have to respond if you feel intimidated and don’t have to sign anything they hand to you. Find out more about your rights, totally free of charge, by speaking to the Get Bailiff Advice team today.