Father hit by tax credits mix-up

A father-of-three whose ex-wife was wrongly paid family tax credits has been given until Monday to repay £2,229 - even though the Inland Revenue has admitted it is at fault.

A father-of-three whose ex-wife was wrongly paid family tax credits has been given until Monday to repay £2,229 - even though the Inland Revenue has admitted it is at fault.

Kevin Soanes, 32, has been "in a living hell" for the last few years as he has desperately tried to prove to tax officials that he had no idea the overpayment was happening, let alone had any access to the money.

Despite admitting the situation was due a system fault, the Inland Revenue is demanding Mr Soanes pay the money as his ex-wife, who left the family home three years ago, cannot afford to.

Last night South West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser said the state of the tax system had caused some families to vow never again to apply for tax credits for fear of getting back into debt.

Mr Soanes, a delivery driver from Banham, said: "No one is listening to me. I've contacted them so many times. It makes no difference. I don't have the money they want. Everything I have goes to paying for the children.

"Now I understand why people just run off and abandon their responsibil-ities. I would never do that. I haven't dared start a relationship or meet new people. It's been a living hell."

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When in September 2004 Jayne Soanes moved out, taking their three children, she immediately informed the tax office of her change of circumstances to ensure she would receive all the family credits instead of her husband receiving a percentage of it in his wages.

But when the new payment started, Mr Soanes noticed he was still being awarded money, and it was only after his employer intervened at his request, that the payment stopped in January 2005.

Mr Soanes and his ex-wife were hardly speaking at the time they separated but were both told by tax officials it was only them being overpaid, the other partner was not. As they had separate bank accounts they had no reason to think otherwise.

Mr Soanes who had been overpaid £715.95 and immediately set up a direct debit to repay the money, only became aware of his ex-wife's debt when the Inland Revenue wrote to him in January 2006 stating that if she did not pay he would be legally bound to.

Now, because he cannot afford the repayments, tax officials will begin enforce-ment action on Monday.

Ms Soanes said: "It's really not fair.

"We did everything by the book. It's their fault and they've admitted it but we're suffering."

A spokesman for the Inland Revenue said: "We cannot talk about individual cases. Anyone in these circum-stances should telephone our confidential helpline on 0845 3003900."

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