Monday, June 01, 2009



HMRC, the caring department of government: caring about you (or, perhaps, rather your assets and income) from the cradle to the grave. Actually, apparently, even from before the cradle!

I have been reading a press release on “Information for mums-to-be”. This tells me that from April 2009 a “mum-to-be who’s at least 25 weeks pregnant” (and who’s due date is after 5 April 2009) can claim a “one-off, tax-free payment of £190” from HMRC. Oh, but not if she is too independent minded. She must have been given health advice from a midwife or doctor on matters relating to maternal health if she is to qualify for this handout.

I do not know what the technical definition of a “mum-to-be” might be. The 25 week period seems to have been determined on the basis that abortion is legal in this country under 24 weeks of pregnancy (if two doctors agree that it is necessary for specified reasons). This 25 weeks therefore looks like a tax (or rather relief) avoidance provision. It prevents a woman from claiming the relief, getting the money, and then aborting the foetus.

So how come that HMRC have suddenly become so generous? I suspect that it is a ploy to get people onto their books as early as possible! Or it may be that the government couldn’t persuade anyone else to administer this grant. Actually I’m not sure that HMRC want to either. They have made claiming the £190 as hard as possible. You obviously have to fill in a claim form. But you can’t download it from the internet. You can’t even get it from HMRC. You need to get it from your midwife or doctor, who must confirm on it that advice has been given to you on matters relating to your pregnancy and sign and date it before they give it to you. You then need to complete it and send it to HMRC within 31 days of the midwife or doctor dating it. This is apparently a strictly enforced time limit. HMRC helpfully say that if your midwife or doctor doesn’t have any claim forms you should call their Health in Pregnancy Grant Helpline and they will send a form – but not to you; to your doctor or midwife. If the expectant mum-to-be is ill or disabled and cannot manage her own affairs, the prospective dad-to-be (or anyone else) can make the claim, but this needs another form, which is not obtainable either from HMRC or the doctor or midwife; you have to go to a Jobcentre Plus office to pick it up.

I was so intrigued with this new role for HMRC (who I thought did not even have sufficient resources to do their basic tax collection role properly) that I wondered where the legislation is. It is in ss 140 – 140A of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 2002 inserted by s 131 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 – and supplemented by the Health in Pregnancy Grant (Entitlement and Amount) Regulations 2008 and the Health in Pregnancy Grant (Administration) Regulations 2008.

There is still no definition of a mum-to-be though. This is apparently an HMRC version of baby talk. The law refers to a woman (which in turn is defined as a female of any age – presumably because we know that in today’s Britain pregnancy starts in the gym-slip). The Regulations impose the further conditions that she must be pregnant and have reached the 25th week of the pregnancy. A woman is not entitled to the grant unless she is in Great Britain (or Northern Ireland) at the time she makes the claim. Unless she is under 16 she also has to have a National Insurance number and information or evidence establishing that that number has been issued to her (or she must evidence that she has applied for one).

The Regulations define a health professional as a practicing midwife who is registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council or an obstetrician or General Practitioner who is registered with the General Medical Council. They also say that a woman must be treated as not being in Great Britain if she is not ordinarily resident here or does not have a right to reside here (but a woman deported to the UK from another country is treated as being ordinarily resident here; and so is a Crown servant posted overseas, a partner accompanying such a person or the daughter of such a person if child benefit is being paid in respect of her). A partner is defined as one of a couple and a couple embraces a man and woman who are married to each other (or living together as husband and wife) and two people of the same sex who are civil partners of each other (or living together as if they were).

If a woman is not yet 25 weeks pregnant HMRC say that they will send her a “free reminder” when she becomes 25 weeks pregnant. Anyone who wants this free reminder can register for it online or send HMRC a text message (text DUE followed by the date – e.g. DUE 060909 if you are due to give birth on 6 September 2009 – to 83377). Can the provider of such a friendly, helpful service really be HMRC?



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