The detection, prevention and punishment of benefit fraud is central to Government policy in tackling welfare payment fraud.
DWP’s Fraud and Error Service (FES) investigates all benefit offences – which include tax credit offences since 06/06/2012. Tax credit offences may also be investigated jointly by DWP and HMRC. FES also operates in Scotland and those cases are referred to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in respect of all criminal investigations. The COPFS also make independent charging decisions referred to them in accordance with the COPFS Code.
Local Authority (LA) investigators investigate offences connected with Housing Benefit , Council Tax Benefit, the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and some DWP benefits but cannot investigate tax credit offences unless authorised to do so by the Secretary of State under Section 109A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (SSAA).
The Secretary of State will only authorise Local Authority investigators to investigate the full range of benefits and tax credits under Section 109A of the SSAA 1992 if the LA is participating as a service provider to the Secretary of State, under the auspices of an MOU with the DWP, in a pilot of Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS). If a case received directly from a local authority under an SLA contains tax credit information, prosecutors should satisfy themselves that the tax credit information on file was obtained using one of the following Gateways.
HMRC officers can investigate tax credit offences under Section 19 of the Tax Credits Act 2002 and, if authorised by the Secretary of State under Section 109A of the SSAA, can also investigate offences connected with DWP and LA administered benefits as service provider to the Secretary of State in a Single Fraud Investigation Service pilot under the auspices of an MOU between the DWP and HMRC. Tax credit cases sent to the CPS will either be investigated jointly by HMRC and DWP or investigated under the Single Fraud Investigation Service pilots.
In Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) pilots, DWP, HMRC and LA fraud investigators investigate (either solely or jointly), on behalf of the Secretary of State, offences connected with all benefits set out in Part VI Social Security Administration Act 1992, including tax credits. Under the pilot scheme, LA and HMRC investigators in SFIS are authorised by the Secretary of State under Section 109A of the SSAA 1992.
SFIS Pilot files will be clearly marked as such.
All these cases can be prosecuted by all CPS prosecutors. See CPS Powers to prosecute below.
Prosecutors who need more detailed information on these points are asked to contact the policy leads.
There is a dual purpose to a benefit fraud investigation:
- to enable the DWP/LA/HMRC to determine whether benefit/tax credit should have been payable in the particular case; and
- to ascertain whether a criminal offence connected with a claim to benefit /tax credit has been committed.
Social security legislation requires benefit claimants to, (a) furnish information and evidence pursuant to a request from the DWP/LA, and (b) to notify the DWP/LA of any change of circumstance which the claimant knew would affect the right to benefit. Separate tax credit legislation prescribes the information claimants are required to report.
The investigation should establish whether and how the claimant failed to do these things.