Tax credit fraud

The Tax Credit Office takes the issue of tax credit fraud very seriously and aims to run a tax credits system that you can trust to support you.

On this page:

What the Tax Credit Office is doing to stop fraud

The Tax Credit Office works hard to protect you and the system against the risk of fraud by:

  • regularly checking the details given on claim forms
  • checking with childcare providers and employers that the details given are right
  • working closely with organisations like the Department for Work and Pensions, the Police, and the Immigration Service
  • working closely with the British Banking Association to find bank accounts that are being used for tax credit fraud

When they work with other organisations, they’ll make sure they comply with data protection laws.

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Types of fraud investigations

When the Tax Credit Office discovers a case of fraud they can:

  • charge a financial penalty
  • prosecute

There are two types of investigation they can use to deal with tax credit fraud:

  • civil investigations
  • criminal investigations

Civil investigations

The aim of a civil investigation is to get back any tax credits payments that have been falsely claimed through fraud, along with any interest. The Tax Credit Office will also charge a financial penalty. A civil investigation does not prosecute.

If the Tax Credit Office charges someone a penalty, they can consider reducing it if the person:

  • realised they had made a mistake
  • told the Tax Credit Office all the facts voluntarily, without being prompted to do so - and before any check of their details had started

For example, a person could have realised their mistake after reading a leaflet about tax credits, or information on the internet.

Tax credit penalties

Criminal investigations

The Tax Credit Office tries to deal with tax credit fraud using civil investigations whenever possible. They’ll only use criminal investigations in very serious cases where:

  • they want to send a strong message to stop other people from trying the same thing
  • the person has acted in a way that makes a criminal investigation the only option

Serious cases include:

  • organised tax credit fraud
  • where false statements have been made
  • where fake documents have been given to the Tax Credit Office
  • where people claiming tax credit have hidden information from the Tax Credit Office or misled them on purpose
  • where someone's carried out the same type of offence before
  • where there's proof that Tax Credit Office staff have been assaulted or threatened
  • where people have pretended to be their employees

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More useful links

Learn more about reporting benefit theft on the Directgov website

More about crime, justice and the law on the Directgov website

HM Revenue & Customs criminal investigation policy

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