Benefits Expert: ‘How can they do this?’

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Q IN September 2010 I started a part-time job, having been medically retired from my previous position at the beginning of that year.

 I was then able to claim Working Tax Credit (WTC) even though I only worked 16 hours a week. This was because I was classed as disabled.

 At first the Tax Credit Office based my claim on the income of me and my wife for the year ended April 2010.

 However, as I had earned quite a lot that year, and so had my wife, they said our income was too much to qualify.

 When I told them that my income had gone down since then they said I could be assessed on what we expected our income to be for the current year.

 I estimated our incomes would be £21,000 and they paid us WTC.

 Now they tell me that they paid me too much and they want back nearly £500 of the WTC I was paid up to April 2011. How can they do this?

 I did earn overtime and bonuses in my new job which I had not expected but the information I gave when I started the job was all I had to go on.

M (by Email)

A USUALLY Tax Credits will be based upon last year’s income, but you may ask for an estimate of this year’s income to be used instead.

 This can be to your advantage if you expect your current year’s income to be less than the previous years. However, there is no margin for error.

 If your income turns out to be more than you estimated you will be paid too much and will have to repay the overpayment.

 You appear to have underestimated your income by at least £2,000. You might have been able to revise your estimate once you realised that you were going to earn more than you thought.

 The Tax Credit Office could then have paid you smaller amounts of WTC, reducing or perhaps avoiding the potential overpayment.

Q I AM a pensioner and get partial help with dental care through the low income scheme. I see my savings of £9,157 have been counted as income of £13 a week, yet savings under £10,000 are ignored for Council Tax Rebates. Why?

Mrs T (Seaham)

A ONCE you have reached women’s pension age your savings are treated more generously for Pension Credit and Council Tax Benefit.

 The savings rules for health benefits like dental help, however, do not change according to your age.

 That means only £6,000 of savings is ignored, with every £250 above this counting as £1 a week income.