30 June 2000

Tax credit aid to ailing income

WORKING families tax credit can make a powerful contribution to the welfare of some northern farming families, says Alison Smith, agriculture specialist with Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Hull.

"With the fall in agricultural incomes over recent years, many rural families are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet," says Ms Smith.

"However, help could be at hand in the form of the working families tax credit. Many farmers now qualify for this scheme but appear to be unwilling to claim. Or it may be some farming families do not appreciate that they may be eligible for extra financial help."

Its important not to let pride, or shame, deny families the financial support to which they may be entitled," stresses Ms Smith. "Farming families should be able to claim what is due to them in the same way as any other family on low income. After all, they have paid their taxes and are entitled to benefit in times of difficulty."

Working families tax credit is available to those families where at least one partner works 16 hours or more a week and who have one or more children aged under 16 or under 19 if in full-time education. "Unlike many of the benefits offered by the government, this one is available to self-employed people," says Ms Smith.

To qualify for the extra money, each family must have one or more dependent children; work at least 16 hours a week; be UK residents; and have savings of £8000 or less. For assessment purposes, the weekly income of those with savings of between £3000 and £8000 is increased by £1 for every £250 of savings.

Savings include the value of any shares held and land owned, but land used in trade is excluded.

When it comes to claiming extra money, perseverance always pays, advises Ms Smith. "Many farming families have experienced difficulties in completing the application form. But it is worth persevering or seeking expert advice in order to obtain benefit that may ease a difficult financial situation."