BENEFITS EXPERT: Are we paying too much tax?

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Can you check our benefits and tell us what rent and Council Tax we should be paying?

At the moment we pay £44.90 a week rent and £51 a month Council Tax. My husband’s State Pension is £142.73 a week and mine is £141.50.

He also has industrial injuries of £17 a week, while I have Personal Independence Payment for both Daily Living needs and Mobility. Our savings are less than £10,000.

The amount you should be expected to pay towards your rent under Housing Benefit rules is £34.40 a week.

You would have to pay more than this if your rent includes costs like water charges or amenity charges that are not covered by Housing Benefit.

You might also have to pay more if you are renting privately and your rent is above the council’s local limit.

Your Council Tax, after the deduction of Council Tax Benefit should be £550 a year or £10.57 a week.

If your husband is accepted as being your carer there is a way in which you could qualify for more benefit.

As you receive Personal Independence Payment for Daily Living, a person who looks after you for at least 35 hours a week could be eligible for Carer’s Allowance.

If your husband was doing this, he could not actually receive Carer’s Allowance because it cannot be paid it in addition to his State Pension.

However, he would have ‘underlying entitlement’ to Carer’s Allowance. This would give you more Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

If your husband were to be awarded underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance your rent would be reduced by a further £22.49 a week and your Council Tax by a further £6.92 a week.

Your husband can claim underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance by phoning the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0345 608 4321.

When he is awarded it you should notify your council so that your benefits can be increased.

People in their late 70s, like me, had to have 39 years of National Insurance (NI) to get a full State Pension, whereas today people only need 30.

Although I worked for 35 years, I only paid full rate NI contributions for 15 of them. So I only receive a married woman’s pension, based on my husband’s NI.

This is £69.50 a week, as opposed to the full rate of £115.95.

You should not feel too aggrieved. It is true that before 2010 women needed 39 years of NI for a full pension and men needed 44.

But even under current rules, 15 years of full contributions will only get you a £58 State Pension which is less than your married woman’s pension.