A fraud solicitor will advise that tax fraud is one of the most commonly committed crimes in the UK and costs the UK government billions on a yearly basis. In recent years there has been an increase in tax fraud and consequently the government has toughened up against people committing tax fraud and the repercussions are severe. Tax fraud arises where an individual dishonestly tries to deceive the government to avoid paying the level of tax they are obliged to. Another growing area of fraud is social security benefit fraud which is a growing concern for the government. Social security benefit fraud is when an individual falsifies information relating to their income, living arrangements and conditions with the intention of unfairly and dishonestly claiming benefits to which they are not entitled.
What is the process of claiming social security benefits?
There are a number of ways in which an individual can commit social security benefit fraud and this includes pretending to pay more rent than they actually do to try and benefit from housing credit; providing false information about their household, income and savings; not reporting a change of circumstances, falsely declaring a disability or unfitness for work. The individual’s intention will be to cheat the government and claim benefits that they are not entitled to.
How does fraud get detected?
Where an individual is suspected of committing social security benefit fraud they will be contacted by the relevant authority, such as the council, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The relevant authority that is involved will then undertake a thorough investigation. At the investigation the suspect will usually be invited to an interview where they will be asked to provide detailed information and their claim to benefits will be discussed at length to check that they are indeed entitled to the benefits that they have been receiving. During this time the individual’s benefit payments will be stopped and the individual may also be visited by a fraud investigator.
The government takes benefit fraud seriously and therefore they have introduced these stringent measures to ensure that those who are claiming benefits fraudulently are being caught and punished accordingly and to ensure that those who are genuinely entitled to benefits can have better access to them.
What happens if a person is found guilty of benefit fraud?
If an individual is found guilty of committing benefit fraud by the investigating authority, the individual will not be entitled to benefits for up to three years and therefore their benefits will either be reduced (as there are some benefits that cannot be stopped irrespective of guilt) or stopped; they may be asked to pay back the amount that they was overpaid; also the individual could be taken to court and charged with a criminal offence where the judge may impose a penalty on them. The penalty amount can vary from £300 – £5000 and the level of penalty imposed on the individual will depend on the severity of the fraud committed.