Local government agencies in the UK responsible for the allocation of benefits such as housing and income support have to make decisions based on the information they get from applicants. When that information is falsified or withheld, too often taxpayers’ money goes to recipients who are actually much better off financially than many who don’t make the cut for any benefits at all.
In the case of Patricia Jackson of Preston, Lancashire, she and her husband applied for and received nearly £22,000 in housing and council tax benefits and income support that they would not have got if the agencies offering the aid had all the facts. Jackson failed to report that she and her cohort had been trading merchandise on eBay which netted more than £6,000, a change in financial circumstances that would have disqualified them for the benefits they were receiving.
Jackson claimed and received over £2,000 in council tax benefits for the period from April 12, 2010 to April 9, 2012 and another £7,725 in housing benefits while not reporting the income she was making from eBay transactions. Jackson also claimed and received almost £12,000 for income support from September 2008 to July 2012.
At a hearing on June 4 the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges, but in a subsequent appearance on August 1, Jackson changed her plea to guilty on all three charges. She was given a two-year conditional discharge by Preston Magistrates Court and commanded to pay court fees of £85, but she will also have to repay the ill-gotten gains.
A spokesperson for Preston Council told reporters that the Council has checks and systems for spotting benefit fraud, and they will pursue and prosecute whenever they find it. He stated for the record that the crime is not worth it; those who try it will be caught sooner or later, and the penalties are steep. Online trading has come to the attention of government tax agencies, and last year both Amazon and eBay were ordered to turn over many thousands of members’ details to the revenue service.
It’s certainly not a crime to buy and sell property on eBay or other sites, but buying to re-sell at a profit is considered a business activity, and any income generated from that source must be reported when claiming income-based benefits.