And finally…inconvenience store

HMRCThe taxman has told a Glaswegian single mother that she is to have her benefits stopped because she is in a relationship - with her local post office.

Debbie Balandis, 40, received a letter from HMRC to say they were stopping her £140-a-week child tax credits because they had become aware of her new relationship with a “Martin McColl”, after his name appeared on her bank statement, the Daily Record newspaper has reported.

However, Martin McColl is the trading name of RS McColl, which is, as most people who have ever spent any time on a Scottish high street will know, the local corner shop.

In Ms Balandis’ case, the shop is also the post office where she collects her benefits.

The mother of two immediately called HMRC to explain the mix-up, but the tax body said she had to prove Martin McColl was not her live-in lover before she could have her benefits reinstated.

She told the local newspaper: “I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter to say my payments were being stopped so I called them up to see what the mix-up had been.

“I expected it to be sorted over the phone but instead I was told they knew I had a new partner.”

Ms Balandis, who said she had not been in a relationship for 10 years, was shocked when they asked her who Mr McColl was and did not believe her when she tried to explain the situation.

She said she had to spend £19 on a lengthy telephone call while waiting to speak to someone, which she could not afford as she lives on £80 in jobseeker’s allowance each fortnight, and they had still cut her off.

Ms Balandis, who uses the money to support her disabled 13-year-old son, said: “I can’t believe the way they treated me – they made the mistake but I’m the one left to suffer.

“My son has disabilities and he lives for his weekly horse-riding which really helps him. Now I have to disappoint him and say I can’t pay for it.

“HMRC say I’ve to write to them again but I’m afraid if I get something wrong it will hold up the process even longer.”

An HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC does not comment on identifiable taxpayers.

“When we have reason to believe someone’s circumstances may have changed, we write to them and allow 30 days for a

reply. If we don’t hear anything, payments are suspended.

“Payments will be reinstated as soon as people have provided us with information requested and it has been reviewed.”