The government has been accused of “cutting corners” on the tax break available to married couples.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge criticised the government’s implementation of the scheme following news that thousands of those eligible for the break had missed out because of computer problems.
The £25 million computer system responsible for processing applications is called Verify. According to complaints, it has been requesting that claimants provide documents they do not have before they can access the £212 tax break. There have also been complaints about excessive delays, official emails which look fraudulent and the dedicated helpline not being available until September. The Daily Mail reports that these factors have confused and frustrated people, leading them to simply abandon their claim.
The government launched the tax break earlier this year, with couples told they could register online. As part of the application process, they were asked to provide documents such as passports and photo driving licenses, as well as mortgage and credit card details. However, a lot of older couples do not have such documents. Some couples were also rejected because they did not have a mobile phone number.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Ms Hodge said that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was “cutting corners without putting in place the right infrastructure” to support those who may struggle to navigate the application process. This meant that “families can’t claim what they should be entitled to”, she alleged.
In response to the criticism, an HMRC spokesman said that an “identity check service” has been introduced to help those who want to apply for the tax break but cannot use the Verify system.
“In the unlikely event [that such couples] are still unable to confirm their identity online, they will be given a phone number to call to complete the application.”