Nurse Asked to Pay £3,000 tax for ‘free’ childcare Received During COVID-19 Lockdown

Health workers in Belfast have said they feel deceived and misled by the local Trust after being hit with massive tax bills for childcare.

The NHS staff claim said they believed the childcare arrangements would be free during the pandemic but have now been contacted by HRMC to say that the “emergency childcare” provided was actually a benefit in kind (similar to a company car or credit card).

One Belfast-based nurse, a single parent with three children, has now started paying off a tax bill of £3,380 – at a rate of £350 a month.

She told the Belfast Telegraph that she no longer wants to work for the NHS – and she’s not the only one.

“Never at any stage did the Belfast Trust suggest that we would end up having to pay for the childcare arrangements,” she said.

“At the start of the pandemic I was offered ‘free’ childcare for my three children so that I could attend work.

“I put them into the arranged childcare setting the Trust had arranged for me from 7am until 5pm and I risked my own life going in and looking after Covid patients four days a week.”

In a statement, Belfast Trust said it is “committed to supporting our staff”.

“We value the tremendous work that has been carried out by all staff throughout the pandemic,” it said.

The mother of three said that as family members who usually looked after her children were shielding during the pandemic, she had no option but to miss work or avail of the ‘free’ creche she was offered.

“When the Trust told me I was entitled to free childcare, I was crying down the phone thanking them,” she said.

“I know a lot of families who took up the offer too.”

That appreciation turned to shock and anger when she discovered that her tax code had been changed, with “a huge amount deducted this month to go towards what I owe them.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I was told it was taxable benefit and I owe HMRC £3,380,” she said.

“We were led to believe that this was something that was being provided to us for free in order to make sure that nurses were able to go to work.

“I’m a single parent with a mortgage to pay. This is going to leave me in dire financial straits.

“I feel totally deflated by this. Millions of people got furlough for months and I actually went to work and I’m now left in debt for my efforts.”

The Belfast Trust and Social Health Care member added: “My deductions this month were almost £700, leaving me with a similar amount to live on and pay my bills every month.”

She also said that “morale has never been so low” adding that “none of us want to do this anymore.”

In a statement, Belfast Trust said it recognised “childcare was an issue for many staff in the early phases of the pandemic and we put in place arrangements to provide childcare places for those staff who were unable for use their normal childcare providers”.

“It is outside of Belfast Trust’s delegated authority to settle the tax liabilities of our staff, however the Trust explored all possible tax exemption options for the childcare places which were paid for on behalf of our staff,” it said.

“When no exemptions were available, we submitted a request for approval through the Department of Health to the Department of Finance, to enter into a PSA (PAYE Settlement Agreement) with HMRC for the period April to July 2020.

“Both the Department of Health and the Department of Finance agreed that due to the unique circumstances affecting staff childcare at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we could enter into a PSA (PAYE Settlement Agreement) with HMRC.

“On this basis and for the period of April to July 2020 only, Belfast Trust as an employer was granted the authority by HMRC to pay the resulting tax and National Insurance contributions on this taxable benefit on a staff member’s behalf.

“However Belfast Trust does not have the authority to pay taxes and national insurance contributions beyond that period.”

Source:Belfast Telegraph

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