1 HM REVENUE & CUSTOMS Child and Working Tax Credits Error and fraud statistics Crown Copyright 2010
2 Estimates of error and fraud in Tax Credits Introduction 1. Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Working Tax Credit (WTC) were introduced in April They are a flexible system of financial support designed to deliver support as and when a family needs it, tailored to their specific circumstances. They are part of wider government policy to provide support to parents returning to work, reduce child poverty and increase financial support for all families. The flexibility of the design of the system means that as families' circumstances change, so (daily) entitlement to tax credits changes. This means tax credits can respond quickly to families' changing circumstances providing support to those that need them most. Tax credits are based on household circumstances and can be claimed jointly by members of a couple, or by singles. Entitlement is based on the following factors: age, income, hours worked, number and age of children, childcare costs and disabilities. For further information on who can claim tax credits please refer to the HMRC website. 2. This report presents results from the tax credits Error & Fraud Analytical Programme (EFAP), which is designed to measure error and fraud across the tax credits population. This publication will be of particular interest to the National Audit Office as part of their overall review of HMRC s accounts, academics and think-tanks and operationally within HMRC. 3. For this exercise took a stratified random sample of cases which were selected to be representative of the tax credit population. Around 4,750 cases were then taken up for examination by claimant compliance officers who worked the cases as they would for any other enquiry. The figures in this publication are based on around 4,150 of these enquiries that had been completed by the time this publication was produced. As such all estimates in this report may be subject to change as more enquiries are completed. The results from these sample cases have been scaled up to population numbers to estimate the overall level of error and fraud in the tax credit system. We will re-publish the estimates if the central estimate rate of error and fraud favouring the claimant changes by +/- 0.2 percentage points as agreed with the National Audit Office as part of a recent review of the processes for measuring error and fraud. 4. Because of the size and diversity of the claimant population, and the possible variations of compliance risk, the sample has been stratified so that we can measure the level of compliance for various claimant groups, as well as for claimants as a whole. More details about the sampling methodology used can be found in Annex A. 5. The Error & Fraud Analytical Programme helps to provide an understanding of the overall level of error within the Tax Credit system. The level of error and fraud by
3 monetary value was 10-14% under Working Families Tax Credit, 9.2% for Income Support and 13.2% for Job Seekers Allowance in when data was first collected on a systematic basis. In , the latest year for which statistics are available, the level of error and fraud was around 8.9% of finalised tax credit entitlement. Headline results from previous exercises are in annex A. 6. HMRC has a target to reduce the level of error and fraud in the tax credits system to no more than 5% by March Our strategy to reduce the level of customer and official error and tackle fraud is outlined in the document Reducing error and fraud in Tax Credits 1. 1 This can be found at
4 Section 1: Likely levels of error and fraud 7. The detail presented in the following tables are based on a sample of cases and hence there are margins of errors associated with these estimates; therefore, tables 1, 2, 3 and 4 also illustrate the 95% confidence intervals associated with these central estimates and note that the estimates presented in the rest of the tables are the central estimates. Table 1: total error and fraud as a proportion of finalised entitlement, Estimated error & fraud favouring the claimant Estimated error favouring HMRC Error and fraud as a percentage of finalised entitlement Lower Central estimate Upper Table 1 shows for the proportion of finalised tax credit entitlement that was accounted for by error and fraud. 9. Error and fraud favouring the claimant refers to cases where the claimant has been found to be non-compliant in a way that has led HMRC to pay them more tax credits than they were entitled to for the year i.e. there was a monetary gain for the claimant and hence a monetary loss for HMRC. Error and fraud favouring HMRC refers to cases where the claimant has been found to be non-compliant in a way that has led HMRC to pay them less tax credits than they were entitled to for the year i.e. there was a monetary gain for HMRC and hence a monetary loss for the claimant. Table 2: overall level of error and fraud, Estimated error and fraud favouring the claimant Estimated error favouring HMRC Lower Number ('000) Central estimate Upper Lower Amount ( m) Central estimate Upper 1,110 1,180 1,260 1,950 2,110 2, Table 2 shows central estimates and their associated 95% confidence intervals for the overall levels of error and fraud for
5 Table 3: error and fraud favouring the claimant as a proportion of finalised entitlement, Estimated error favouring the claimant Estimated fraud favouring the claimant Error and fraud as a percentage of finalised entitlement Lower Central estimate Upper Table 3 shows for the proportion of finalised tax credit entitlement that was accounted for by error in the claimant s favour and the proportion that was accounted for by fraud in the claimant s favour. Due to the small number of sample cases in the Error and Fraud Analytical Programme classified as 'fraud' separate breakdowns of the components split by error and fraud are not available. The categorisation between error and fraud is not comparable with earlier years. A new penalty regime and associated guidance was introduced in compliance on 6 th April The result of this was that the way fraud was categorised changed, however, in only part of the impact of this was captured in the published figures. The classification of fraud is now fully aligned with the new penalty regime and this has resulted in a larger proportion of error and fraud being classified as fraud. Table 4: level of error and fraud favouring the claimant, Estimated error favouring the claimant Estimated fraud favouring the claimant Lower Number ('000) Central estimate Upper Lower Amount ( m) Central estimate Upper 1,020 1,080 1,150 1,520 1,650 1, Table 4 shows the central estimates and their associated 95% confidence intervals split by the levels of error and fraud in the claimant s favour.
6 Table 5 - breakdown of error and fraud by type of tax credit award - central estimates, Estimated error and fraud favouring the Numbers ('000) Amounts ( m) claimant Nil award - - Out of work In work, children, more than family element 880 1,690 In work, children, family element or less WTC only Total 1,180 2,110 Estimated error favouring HMRC Nil award - - Out of work In work, children, more than family element In work, children, family element or less WTC only Total Table 6 - distribution of error and fraud by its value - central estimates, Value of error and fraud Estimated error and fraud favouring the claimant Number ('000) Amount ( m) Estimated error favouring HMRC Number ('000) Amount ( m) Less than to to ,000 or more 590 1, Total 1,180 2, To compare these figures to those presented in table 3 of the publication and table 4 of the publication then In work, children, family element or less is equivalent to Flat rate and the summation of Out of work, In work, children, more than family element and WTC only is equivalent to Others.
7 Table 7 - distribution of error and fraud by value of finalised award - central estimates, Value of award Estimated error and fraud favouring the claimant Number ('000) Amount ( m) Estimated error favouring HMRC Number ('000) Amount ( m) Under 1, ,000 to 1, ,000 to 2, ,000 to 3, ,000 to 4, ,000 to 5, ,000 to 6, ,000 and over 365 1, Total 1,180 2, Note that the value of the award shown in table 7 is the value of the finalised award when the EFAP sample was drawn. Table 8 - reasons for error and fraud - central estimates, Reason Estimated error and fraud favouring the claimant Number ('000) Amount ( m) Estimated error favouring HMRC Number ('000) Amount ( m) Income Undeclared Partner Childcare costs Children Work and hours Disability Total 1,430 2, Note that in table 8 some claimants will have more than one reason for adjustment so the numbers will not sum to the total number of awards presented in the other tables.
8 Annex A The Tax Credits Error and Fraud Analytical Programme (EFAP) - methodological and technical details Introduction 1. The tax credits system is designed to respond to changes in income and circumstances as they happen. In , a family s award was initially based on their circumstances (e.g. number of children, any disabilities, etc.) and income as held by HMRC on their award at April Once their award had been finalised then their award would be based on their finalised income; although, at any time they could provide an estimate for their current year income. At the end of families were required to tell HMRC what their final income was for the year by 31 July However, some recipients who had only been able to provide an estimate by this date were given until 31 January 2010 to provide their final incomes. 2. The exercise could not start until recipients had provided HMRC with details of their final incomes, which meant that compliance officers were unable to start work on some cases until after 31 January 2010 (as an enquiry can only be opened once the award is finalised). Error and fraud 3. When Claimant Compliance Officers identified non-compliance, they were required to indicate whether they believe it was due to genuine error or fraud. To be classified as fraud, a caseworker needs to have found evidence that the claimant deliberately set out to misrepresent their circumstances to get money to which they are not entitled (e.g. claiming for a child that does not exist). Error covers instances where there is no evidence of the claimant deliberately trying to deceive HMRC. It covers a range of situations, including cases where a claimant inadvertently overclaims because they simply provided HMRC with the wrong information. It could also cover a situation where the correct information has been provided but this information has been incorrectly processed by HMRC. 4. The split between error and fraud in this publication has changed due to the new penalty regime and associated guidance introduced in compliance on 6 th April This is the first year that the results fully reflect the way that the new penalty regime distinguishes between error and fraud and therefore they are not comparable to previous years. This has increased the amount of error and fraud classified as fraud. 3 Unless is their first year of tax credit receipt in which case it will be based on their circumstances at the time of application and their income.
9 5. Estimates of official error were published for the first time in As part of the working of each case compliance officers were asked not only to classify whether or not a case that was found to be incorrect was due to either error or fraud, but also whether or not the error was due to HMRC. However, HMRC error figures for are not included the in this publication due to the small number of cases in the sample found to be affected. 6. For cases where error or fraud have been identified the Claimant Compliance Officer also has to identify the causes of the error or fraud - and the monetary consequence of this - the adjustment categories are shown in table 8. These categorise whether or not the income reported at finalisation is under or over-stated, likewise with childcare costs. Similarly, whether or not there is a partner in the household whose income has not been declared, whether or not a child claimed for is still in full time education and being cared for by the claimant, whether or not the adults in the claim are working and if so the number of hours that they are working and whether or not the adults and children in the claim are disabled or severely disabled Due to the nature of organised fraud and HMRC compliance procedures the vast majority of organised fraud claims are stopped quickly and awards in payment are terminated. This means that organised fraud is more likely to be detected as overpayments rather than in the analytical programme, any overpayments that are not remitted during the year will be included in the annual National Statistics publication on under and overpayments. Sampling 8. The sample for the EFAP is constructed from 4 strata of claimants; these strata, together with the sample sizes, are shown below. Stratum Sample size Nil awards 200 Flat rate 500 WTC only 400 Others 3,850 Overall 4, The sample was stratified in this way to ensure that an appropriate number of both Nil, Other and WTC only awards were included in the sample. If a purely random sample had been used this would have consisted of a high number of Nil and Flat rate awards which show relatively low rates of non compliance, thus reducing the 4 This last category also covers the small number of cases where the claimant or their partner were incorrectly in receipt of IS/JSA (passporting them to maximum CTC with no tapering) or the 50+ return to work element.
10 accuracy of the results of the EFAP. The use of a stratified sample allows for the levels of error and fraud in each stratum to be estimated more accurately by ensuring the number of cases in each strata is representative of the likelihood of fraud and error occurring in that strata of the population. 10. An individual award can fall into a number of different strata during the year depending on the circumstances of the household at a given point in time, for example a couple could initially be receiving WTC only and then half way through the year have their first child thus moving them to our other strata. In fact there are ten possible categories (which we aggregate into our four strata) that a household in award could find themselves in at a given point during the year depending on their circumstances and income. When an award moves between these categories we say that a new entitlement sub-period has been created. It is not possible to aggregate these sub-periods into one category that would give the household an overall status for the year, therefore we allocate them based on the entitlement subperiod that they have spent the most time in during that year. 11. It is important to note that our sample base is awards and not families these two differ as a family can have a number of awards during a year. Take the following example, initially a lone parent family is in award then a new household is formed when a partner moves in and later in the year the partner moves out (the household breaks down) and they become a lone parent again, so in total they have had three separate awards during the year. We follow awards as this is the unit that the tax credit system is based around and hence is most suitable for constructing a representative sample from. 12. The sample base contains all awards present on the HMRC tax credit system at the end of the first week of August An award may last for a period of anywhere between one day and the whole year. 13. The samples for each stratum were selected at random and were picked using a set of randomly generated numbers. Sampling errors around the estimates 14. Estimates in the tables are rounded to the nearest 10m/10,000 in tables 2, 4 and for all the overall totals in the other tables whilst the breakdowns in the other tables are rounded to the nearest 5m/5,000. The estimates presented are the central estimates derived from the sample taking account of the methodological approach set out below. Since these estimates are based on a sample they are subject to sampling errors. These margins of error have been expressed by calculating a 95% confidence interval around the estimates. These have been calculated and are shown in tables 1, 2, 3 and 4.
11 Methodology 15. This next section sets out a number of different methodological issues - such as how we process the data, how cases in the sample have been scaled up to represent population estimates, how certain cases have been treated etc. Processing 16. The underlying data is recorded by the compliance officers who carried out the enquiries, it then undergoes a number steps where it is checked and processed before it is used to calculate the figures in this publication. 17. The final data used is created by cross checking the information held in our compliance management information system against that held in the main tax credit computer system and against information recorded about the case by the compliance officer who worked it. Where a lone parent is found to have an undisclosed partner we offset the entitlement that they would have had under their (notional) joint award against the amount that was paid out incorrectly in the singleperson award and the remainder is what we classify as error/fraud in this publication. 18. Each award has a number of entitlement sub-periods 5 and it is clear that some of these sub-periods cannot be associated with certain types of error/fraud that are recorded, for example if 25% of an award s time is spent in a WTC only sub-period and 75% of its time in sub-periods relating to CTC then a claimant favour error/fraud relating to a child could only have occurred in the latter 75% of the award. We therefore allocate the error to the sub-periods that it could be associated with, so in the earlier example the child error would be allocated to the 75% of the award spent in sub-periods relating to CTC. HMRC favour error has been reallocated between sub-periods based on the proportion of that award spent in that sub-period. Projections 19. Although the figures in this publication are based on the 4,165 cases which had been settled, there were still 602 cases which had been opened but not completed in time to be included. A projection has been made to cover the estimated additional amount of extra error/fraud these cases will provide. 20. It is assumed in this analysis that these incomplete cases exhibit the same characteristics, on average, to those that had been settled most recently and assumed that the cases left to work to the end will on average exhibit this average level of settlements and level of non-compliance. Where there is only a small number of sample cases for recently settled cases the average level over a longer 5 See paragraph 10 for an explanation of entitlement sub-periods.
12 time period is used. We will re-visit this projection once more cases have been completed and re-publish the estimates if the headline rate of error and fraud favouring the claimant changes by more than +/- 0.2 percentage points. Grossing 21. The sample results of the cases that have been worked to completion plus the projected results from the cases still being worked have been grossed to reflect population estimates. Differential grossing factors have been applied depending on the value of the finalised award and the characteristics of the claimant during the year. The process by which the grossing was carried out differs from that used in and as a new improved methodology was introduced from onwards. Although the changes set out below introduce a discontinuity into any time series comparisons this is offset by the increased accuracy that the method provides for this and future years. For reference published figures for prior years are contained in the table below. Published Error and fraud rates for prior years Estimated error and fraud favouring the claimant Error and fraud as a percentage of finalised Year of EFAP entitlement Lower Central Upper estimate Estimated error and fraud favouring HMRC
13 22. The sample frame used from onwards provided more information than that used in previous years giving us information on all the entitlement sub-periods 6 that an award had had during the year compared to previously having just the last of the year. Therefore since we gross our sample results to the total of entitlement sub-periods for the population over the whole year rather than to the single entitlement sub-period present at the end of the year. 23. We also now gross up to the position of the award on each tax credit profile rather than to each strata that the award falls into (the four strata are an amalgamation of the 10 different profile positions) which gives us increased accuracy over groups with potentially differing rates of error and fraud. 24. The final change was a move from grossing to the total number of awards as the control population to instead using the total amount of entitlement. Exclusions 25. The figures underlying this report are based on 4,165 cases examined by claimant compliance officers supplemented by the projections for the 602 cases that were opened but have not yet been closed. In the analysis presented in this report account has been taken of: cases that are not taken up for enquiry - in some cases, for example if the claimant or their children have died, an enquiry is not taken up, these cases have been excluded from the results - implicitly assuming that if they had been worked they would have the same result, on average, to the cases that have been successfully completed. Contact point 26. For further information please contact Rob James on , 6 See paragraph 10 for an explanation of entitlement sub-periods.
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