Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Child Benefit

Over twenty years ago, my then wife threw a wobbly and went off back to Germany, taking our two little babies with her.

The Child Benefit was being paid into our joint account, so I waited three or four weeks on the off-chance she'd return, but when it was clear that she wouldn't, I got in touch with the Child Benefit people to tell them about this 'change in circumstances'.

They promptly stopped the payments and asked me to repay the three weeks' worth I had received after the children had left the country, which I did.

Now, this all seemed perfectly fair and reasonable to me. She was, after all, claimimg the German equivalent of Child Benefit.

When did they change the rules that the UK has to pay Child Benefit for children living abroad if one or the other parent lives here? How do they check that the children even exist?

More importantly, should I have just kept schtum on the basis that sooner or later, EU law would swing round in my favour and make it legal?


Rich Tee said...

What makes me laugh is that everybody in favour of immigration insists that people do not come to Britain for the benefits, but when Cameron said he wanted to restrict benefits for immigrants the loudest protest came from the Polish PM who insisted that would be discriminatory.

Anonymous said...

@RT. I'm neither in favour nor against immigration per se but as I understand it few people expect a reduction of benefits to have much effect. Availability of jobs is the main draw.

Mark Wadsworth said...

RT and P, fair points both.

mombers said...

If they don't want more people coming, surely making getting CB contingent on bringing your child is going to have the opposite effect???

john b said...

The UK rule change that made this one work was to do with UK pensioners in Spain - they didn't much like the idea of living on the Spanish equivalent of income support - so as a result UK folks living elsewhere in Europe get the same benefits they would if they weren't.

We could stop this in a heartbeat within EU rules if we refused to pay UK money to UK folks living elsewhere in Europe, but for as long as we do, it's seen as unsporting to make Polish chaps working in the UK pay full UK tax whilst not giving them the benefits that some retired crim in the Costa del Sol is given.

Dinero said...

"How do they check that the children even exist?"
similarly how do they know what the economic circumstances of a migrant claimant are.

Dinero said...

The PM at PMQs has just says it is his intention to pay CB at the "local rate".

As for not paying out of work benefits to EU migrants , I can see that it could be asserted that that policy does not square with continuing to charge them income tax and national insurance.

mombers said...

@D exactly - benefits are just negative income tax if you're in work. Would they make the personal allowance available to citizens only?

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, fair point. I doubt whether many would, seeing as bringing up a child here is a negative sum exercise if you are working.

JB, that doesn't really makes sense. Old age pensions have always been treated differently, and as a general rule, you can move where you like and still claim it. Depending on where you go, the amounts are uprated with CPI or not as the case may be.

And it is still double counting - if the UK has to pay pensions to old UK criminals on the Costa Del Sol, then the Polish* government should pay their equivalent of WTC to Polish plumbers and waitresses over here.

Din, the point is - and I have been saying this for ten years - EU rules say that workers of whatever nationality must be treated the same. That is all fine and good. So "in work" benefits clearly have to be paid to foreigners (it is negative income tax). But this does not apply to non-contributory and non-work related benefits - so yet again, a Citizen's Income wins the day.

And why should we pay CB at 'the local rate'? Surely, the Polish government is already paying this at the local rate to children in Poland.

* I'm not singling out Poles. They are nice people on the whole, if a tad racist.

M, no we can't. That would clearly be unfair and against the rules. But as to a Citizen's Income, we can make up our own rules.who gets it, the clue is in the name.

Kj said...

What are the current rules in the UK Mark? Here, CB is paid for the child of an EEA-Citizen residing and working in Norway for more than 12 months. If he/she has children in their home country, ok, let's use Poland as an example, CB is paid out. The really fun, bureacratic part however, is that if the parent in Poland claims something similar to CB there, the difference between the value of the Polish benefit and the Norwegian CB is paid out.
I also say fair play to foreign workers earning the same benefits as everyone else. But CB is universal and not related to work Income, it's common sense that it should be paid out where the child actually resides and at local rates. Not that this is terribly expensive though, CB is small pennies.

Kj said...

How do they check that the children even exist?

Apparently, they check birth-certificates, then contact the local population registry and social security administration in the country in question. I've asked an aquaintance in our social security administration if they actually do this, and he says they do.

Dinero said...

> mombers

so that poses the question , how is the personal allowance for tax taken into consideration for the income tax for for migrant workers.

Graeme said...

so a Euro wide citizens' income would solve a lot of problems....wouldn't it?

Bayard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.