Around 2,000 appeals against tax credit cuts will be examined by tax officials in the wake of HM Revenue & Customs' decision to axe a controversial contractor hired to cut fraud, it emerged today.
The figure gives the first official indication of the scale of the problems surrounding US firm Concentrix's review of tax credit cases, after sustained criticism of its performance and complaints that many have had credits wrongly stopped.
HMRC announced last night that it won't be extending Concentrix's contract beyond May 2017 – for the full picture and what to do if you've been affected, see our Concentrix help news story.
Some 200,000 cases still open
Concentrix was tasked in its original contract, which began in May 2014, to look into 5.5 million tax credit awards and identify an estimated two million which contained errors or were fraudulent.
Tax credits are payouts made regularly by the state into bank accounts to support those with children or in work but with low income. See our Tax Credits guide for more info.
To date Concentrix has looked into and made a decision on 667,000 cases and a further 200,000 are still open (meaning Concentrix has notified the person that their tax credit entitlement is being investigated and that they are within the standard 30-day notification period to respond).
HMRC told MoneySavingExpert.com today that about 2,000 cases are currently in 'mandatory reconsideration' – the first stage in the appeals process where claimants are able to challenge Concentrix's decision to cut credits.
Those who want to appeal a Concentrix judgement have to request a mandatory reconsideration from the firm in the first instance. Until yesterday, these appeals were handled by Concentrix itself, but after the decision not to extend the firm's contract all ongoing appeals and future appeals will be handled by HMRC, with it drafting in an extra 150 staff to help process the backlog.
If you agree with the decision made at a mandatory reconsideration, you can request that your case is looked at by an independent tribunal. We have asked HMRC to confirm how many cases dealt with by Concentrix have been passed onto a tribunal and are waiting to hear back.
'No inquiry needed'
Concentrix has faced massive criticism in recent days, with Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, one of a number of MPs who last week called for its contract to be reviewed. She said at the time: "Concentrix are operating with callous indifference to the thousands of people they are plunging into hardship."
And in Parliament today, Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford and Eccles, called for an inquiry into HMRC's handling of the affair.
But Jane Ellison MP, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: "I don't think that there's any need to go into inquiries etc.
"We have a contract, it is monitored on a regular basis – it is not going to be renewed when it comes to an end in May next year."
What does Concentrix say?
In response to HMRC's decision yesterday, a Concentrix spokesperson says: "We have operated professionally at all times and within the guidance set by HMRC. The HMRC statement not to renew the contract attacks our professional credibility, and the commitment of our staff who have performed determinedly, despite the issues with HMRC policies and procedures.
"In addition, throughout the contract, Concentrix has employed good hard-working people within the UK, at Concentrix expense, in order to staff phone lines and handle customer calls which were agreed by HMRC and were based on HMRC assumptions."
We want your stories
We've received dozens of emails from those affected by Concentrix's review of tax credits, and we're working on a piece highlighting some of those stories.
If you wouldn't mind your case being featured in a future news story then please contact us at email@example.com with brief details. Unfortunately we won't be able to respond to every email but we will be in touch if we can feature your case.