Crackdown on benefit fraud

A MASSIVE 2,800 Wigan folk are said to be falsely claiming tax credit.

The shocking new figures - which show the town has the third highest number of benefit fraudsters in Greater Manchester - were revealed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs this week as it launched a new crackdown.

Letters have already started landing on the doorsteps of thousands of self-employed people across the UK who are claiming tax credits.

HMRC teams have been examining such awards being paid to the self-employed and are writing to any whose claims may not be genuine or accurate. They are asked to contact the department and supply evidence to support their claims.

Failure to tell HMRC promptly of any changes in income can result in overpayment, which means that claimants have to pay back the money.

They could also face a penalty and, in the case of deliberate fraud, criminal prosecution and jail.

As part of a wider government crackdown, HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions have published a strategy designed to tackle error and fraud in benefits and credits.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said: “HMRC is determined to take a tough approach to targeting possible fraud among tax credit claimants.

“Last year the Government launched radical proposals to reduce the billions lost to tax credit error and fraud every year. These losses are unaffordable and unacceptable.”

HMRC will now use credit reference agencies and data-matching to spot patterns of fraud.

The department is also employing additional investigators and are examining each claim in high-fraud areas such as Wigan.

Only the much larger Manchester area (4,600) and Bolton (3,300) are thought to have more bogus claimants in Greater Manchester.