Hundreds should be entitled to a tax refund

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HUNDREDS of Wigan residents are entitled to a refund because of a glitch in bedroom tax regulations, council bosses say. It was uncovered earlier this month that some social housing renters should not have been hit with the controversial tax.

And the Evening Post can reveal that around 350 households in the borough will be able to have their benefit claims revised.

Alison McKenzie-Folan, director for customer transformation at Wigan Council, said that efforts have been stepped up to identify those affected.

She said: “We have identified more than 300 households that may be exempt and we have also been contacted by about 150 people enquiring about this issue. We’re working hard to identify those who are exempt and to correct their claim.

“To qualify for the exemption, customers must have been continuously entitled to housing benefit since at least January 1 1996 and lived in the same house since that date. If residents think they may be exempt they can contact the council.

“If a resident is entitled to the exemption, we will revise their claim and remove the under-occupancy reduction in their housing benefit from April 1 2013 until the legislation is removed.”

The under-occupation tax, known as bedroom tax, was introduced in April 2013 and reduces benefit payments by 14 per cent for one unoccupied bedroom and 25 per cent for two, and affects around 4,000 families in the borough.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said earlier this month: “This is yet further evidence of the chaos within the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

“It only confirms to me that rather than closing this loophole the bedroom tax should be axed in its entirety.

The DWP had said they expected that “very few people” would be affected and that the regulations will soon be amended.

Housing experts had estimated that the number of households entitled to a refund could be as many as 40,000 nationwide.

Skelmersdale MP Rosie Cooper - whose West Lancashire constituency has an estimated 150 affected tenants - said the policy is “unfair, unworkable and a complete failure.”

Residents who think they may fit the criteria can contact Wigan Council’s customer services team on 01942 828644.