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TaxRobin, Tax Consultant
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 17609
Experience:  International tax
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I am single mother of one and I share house with my friend.

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I am single mother of one and I share house with my friend. Although we live together for a few years, he is not my partner. I receive working tax credit and child benefit as a single person. I have got a letter from HMRC that in our household is another adult. I would like to ask you if I am entitled to claim for these benefits in my circumstances and how can I prove that we are not a couple. Thank you for your advice. Sarah
Living together as husband and wife (LTAHAW) has its normal meaning in every day language, but the Courts and administrative practice have developed a number of criteria to help apply that meaning to every day situations.
HMRC must look to many things if they want to establish that you are LTAHAW.
The relevant factors they consider when determining whether a couple are living in the same household may be:-

how/why the couple came together
is rent received or paid? If so the income will (unless it is exempt under the rent a room scheme) be treated as income in the hands of the recipient.
what kind of accommodation they share
if there is no formal rent agreement how are costs shared? How would exceptional expenditure be met? For example, if major unexpected repairs had to be carried out or home improvements made.
any absences from the household - why and how often.

You would want to respond by addressing the following relevant factors:

on what basis you split household chores and responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
that you are not both involved in caring for any children who live in the household
that you do not tend to spend your leisure time together
you normally do not take joint holidays
that you do not intend to get engaged or married
that the relationship does not have a volatile history ie. you are not known to have had several splits and reconciliations.

Explain your situation and the relationship as it is and not that you are LTHAW.
It is not possible to lay down hard and fast rules about the weight and worth of the various criteria in establishing that a couple are living together.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Can HRMC take me to the court if they do not believe me? I have no writen agreements with my friend. We only made verbal deals.

They will ask many questions and they will ask others questions about what they know about your relationship. They will then make their decision. They do not take you to court but they do take away or reduce benefits someone is getting if they determine by their investigation that the facts are not correctly represented.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

If they determine that the facts are not correctly represented, can they require payment i received since we lived together back? And what would happen if I not be able to pay?

You usually have to pay the overpayment back in a lump sum if it is determined that you received benefits you should not have. The letter asking you to repay the money tells you about the various ways you can pay the money back.
If you and your friend are not a couple then please do not be too concerned with this. You would only have deeper problems if they showed you committed fraud. There are 2 ways to commit benefit fraud:
intentionally not reporting a change in your circumstances
being dishonest in order to get benefits

They cannot and do not take action unless the intent was to commit fraud.
You asked about court, and fraud is where the court issue could come into play. Your friend (as you stated) is not your partner so just have the information that shows you and your friend are not together in any way that infers you are more than friends. Your and your friend's employers will be asked and they should be able to verify for you as well. Child care providers or school as well.
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