Opening and Working Enquiries: No S18 decision notice issued
You cannot open an enquiry until an award has been finalised but there is no requirement in section 19 of the Tax Credits Act for the customer to have received a copy of the decision. If the screen shows the award has been finalised but there is no date of issue for the award notice how you proceed depends on whether the case is an auto renewal or reply required case.
Auto renewal cases
In auto renewal cases the customer is sent a S17 notice (TC603R) asking them to check their circumstances and calculate their income for the year. We then explain that if their circumstances haven’t changed, and their income is less than a certain amount or within certain tolerances they need take no further action. We also explain that if they don’t contact us by the first specified date that we will make a decision on that date based on the information set out in the S17 notice. The notice also tells them what the details of their award will be. This means that we then don’t have to send out another notice telling them about their award once we have made our S18 decision on or after the first specified date.
In these cases you can open an enquiry under S19 of the Tax Credits Act 2002 as soon as the S18 decision has been made.
Reply required cases
In reply required cases the customer is sent a reply required S17 notice (TC603R and TC603D). We ask them to check their circumstances and calculate their income for the year and we tell them they must reply by the first specified date.
If they reply by the first specified date we make our S18 decision using the information they give us and the system should send them a notice of their award for that year and also for the current year.
If they don’t reply by the first specified date we make our S18 decision based on the information we have and the system should send them a notice of their award for that year and will initiate action to recover their run-on payments.
In some cases the S18 decision is made but the system does not send out an award notice. In a ‘reply required’ case, whenever we make a decision about a customer’s award we are legally required to send them an award notice. Normally the decision notice is issued promptly but the legislation doesn’t specify a time limit for sending the notice. However, we must tell them what our decision is and give them the right to appeal against it.
If you have a case for enquiry which has been selected either as part of the mandatory enquiry programme or through risk assessment and the customer has not had a notice of our S18 decision you cannot open your enquiry until after they have had the notice of our decision, and had time to consider whether they want to appeal or not.
In these cases you should issue a manual award notice. The notice must include details of the customer’s circumstances so that they can check whether they are happy that we have made the right decision. Be careful when you are taking this information from the system, and if you are not sure what information to take from the system ask a more experienced colleague or your manager.
You can then open your enquiry as normal.