POLITICS

IDS Goes After Benefit Fraudsters, But What About These 3 Bigger Costs To The Taxpayer?

21/10/2014 11:33 BST | Updated 21/10/2014 12:59 BST
Peter Macdiarmid via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 05: Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith arrives in Downing Street on September 5, 2012 in London, England. Prime Minister David Cameron is holding his first Cabinet meeting after yesterday's re-shuffle of Ministers. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions has launched a new advertising campaign encouraging people to phone a hotline if they suspect somebody they know is fraudulently claiming benefits.

DWP minister Mark Harper said: “Those who cheat the system need to know we will use everything in our power to stop them stealing money from hardworking taxpayers.”

The government estimates that £1.1 billion is lost a year due to benefit fraud. However, ever the party poopers, HuffPostUK thought of highlighting three other issues that, from the government's own figures, are bigger problems.

The tax gap, charting the estimated amount of taxes unpaid thanks to evasion, avoidance, error and criminality, soared to £34 billion, according to HM Revenue and Customs. This equated to £1 in every £15 owed in taxes not being collected last year.

Margaret Hodge, chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee, said she was "worried" that the government and HMRC "talk the talk but they don't walk the walk" in their efforts to clamp down on tax dodging.

The National Audit Office found that the Department for Work and Pensions had made £1.4 billion in benefit overpayments, an increase of nearly 6%.

Meanwhile, the DWP estimate that between £7.5 billion and £12.3 billion of the six main benefits it administered were left unclaimed in 2009/2010. On top of that. HMRC suggest that several billion pounds more is most in unclaimed tax credits, with childless families missing out on £2.3 billion worth.

So as the DWP bangs the drum about benefit fraudsters, it may be worth keeping in mind the other bigger costs to the public purse ministers are less keen to talk about.