Over the next few months, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will be working together to uncover benefit fraud and error across six social security benefits, including Housing Benefit.

The DWP will use ‘Real Time Information’ (RTI) from HMRC to identify cases where claimants have either failed to declare, or have under-declared, their income from earnings or from non-state pensions. RTI is a new system for collecting Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax information from employers and pension providers, who are now required to provide HMRC with income details immediately after each payment they make. Over the last few years employers have been joining the new ‘Real Time Information’ reporting system, which will become an essential part of the new Universal Credit system.

This exercise is expected to run between September 2014 and April 2015. During this time, HMRC will pass on Real Time Information about earnings and pensions to the DWP and local authorities, so that they can match it with their benefit records.

The DWP estimates that they will identify 300,000 overpayments as a result of this initiative, of which more than 200,000 are expected to relate to Housing Benefit only cases.

If you’re found to have received a benefit overpayment because you haven’t provided your full income details to the DWP, or to the local authority in the case of Housing Benefit, the DWP or local authority will take action to recover the overpayment from you. They may also decide to start a criminal investigation for fraud.

It is often the case that if the income had been declared in the first place, it might night have reduced benefit as much as all that.

For help from Salford Citizens Advice visit your local bureau in Eccles, Irlam and Cadishead, Salford City, Swinton, Walkden or at Salford Royal.

Telephone our advice line: 0844 826 9695 (if calling from a landline or if calling from a mobile 0300 456 2554), which is now open on Saturdays.


Tom Togher.