Tax treatmen of widowers under fire

Link: Budget 2002 – Widow of opportunity

This follows two settlements in 1999 and 2000 where widowers were given payments equivalent to the Widows Benefits Tax Allowance, despite the fact that the claimants were not legally entitled to the concession.

In both cases the case had been taken to the European Court of Human Rights. In November 1999, the Inland Revenue agreed to make Christopher Crossland at payment equivalent to Widows Bereavement Tax Allowance, to which widows were not legally entitled. In July 2000, the former Department of Social Security, now the Department for Work and Pensions, agreed a similar settlement of David Cornwell’s claim for a payment equivalent to Widow’s Benefits, to which widowers were not legally entitled.

Parliamentary ombudsman Ann Abraham said in a report called Equality under the law? the treatment of widowers by the Inland Revenue and the Department for Work Pensions’ that she had been inundated with complaints as a result. She said: ‘My office has to date received 66 complaints that the Inland Revenue acted unfairly by refusing to treat other claims in the same way as they had dealt with Mr Crossland’s case, and a further six complaints the Department of Work and Pensions did not treat other cases in the same way as they had treated Mr Cornwell. Complaints have been referred by 65 different members of parliament.’

The ombudsman investigated two complaints but abandoned them after she decided that the injustice derived from the legislation rather than maladministration. She added that changes to the rules in the Finance Act and the Welfare and Pensions Act 1999 had removed any distinction between the way in which men and women who were widowed were treated for tax and social security purposes. She prepared the report to help ensure that future legislation was not discriminatory.

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