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Families not contacted about benefit changes.

Summary: It has emerged that almost a third of families affected by the new child benefits means-tested rules have not been formally contacted.

It has emerged that almost a third of families affected by the new child benefits means-tested rules have not been formally contacted.

HM Revenue and Customs said it had written to nearly 800,000 people known to be affected by the previously announced child benefit alterations which come into force on Monday.

But "extensive" media activity is being employed to inform people of the imminent changes the Government said.

It estimated 1.1 million will be affected by the move, but HMRC had been unable to contact everyone as it held incomplete data on some customers following changes to their income, relationship status, or address.

From next week, families in which one parent earns more than Au60,000 a year will lose all their benefit, which is currently Au20.30 a week for the first child and Au13.40 for each child after that.

Families where one parent earns between Au50,000 and Au60,000 will have the benefit reduced on a sliding scale.

The change will cost families with three children and at least one parent earning over Au60,000 about Au2,450 a year.

It also produces anomalies, as two-earner households where both parents earn Au49,000 will keep all their benefit, while neighbours who have one parent on Au60,000 and the other staying at home will lose all of theirs.

Catherine McKinnell, shadow exchequer secretary to the Treasury said: "David Cameron and George Osborne have failed to think through this policy or how it will work in practice.

"There could be a nasty surprise in store for thousands of parents if they are not aware of the changes and have to pay back thousands of pounds in child benefit at the end of the year.

A Treasury aide said: "We must deal with Labour's deficit so that our children don't have to and do so in a way that is fair - it is very difficult to justify paying child benefit to the wealthiest 15 per cent of families."

An HMRC spokesman said: "HMRC have written to 800,000 people about the child benefit changes.

"There may be cases where people's circumstances have changed, for example their income may have increased or address may have changed, and we will not yet have up-to-date information.

"However to ensure people know about the changes we are also using extensive advertising, media and online activity, as well as written communication.

"Our target audience will have seen the adverts five times on average and there has been extensive media coverage of the change. Over one million hits on the guidance section of the HMRC website and 100,000 uses of our online calculator show that the message is getting through."

Independent Television News Limited 2011. All rights reserved.

Independent Television News Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Independent Television News Limited (ITN)
Date:Jan 4, 2013
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