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South Thanet Conservative candidate Craig Mackinlay runs firm helping foreign nationals claim tax credits

Conservative Craig Mackinlay is facing further questions about his business interests after it emerged the accountancy firm of which he is a partner helps foreign nationals claim welfare benefits.

The South Thanet candidate was last week forced to explain his ownership of a now dormant website that encouraged Hungarian migrants to the UK to find work.

Now we can reveal the Chatham-based accountancy firm Beak Kemmenoe, where he is a partner, has a website called claimtaxcredits.com.

Thanet South MP Craig Mackinlay
Thanet South MP Craig Mackinlay

The site sets out how it specialises in offering advice to foreign citizens on how to claim tax credits, saying they are "unbelievably generous".

Flags of the countries where foreign nationals could qualify to claim feature on the site, which says that arrivals from countries with low wage economies "will almost certainly find yourself in line for a substantial tax credit claim".

The disclosure will be embarrassing as a key Conservative manifesto commitment is a crackdown on so-called benefit tourism.

"The Tax Credits system is uniquely complicated, but can be almost unbelievably generous..." - Craig Mackinlay's website

The website's home page says it is "the UK's only professional practice whose sole business is to deal with tax credit claims" and says the system is "uniquely complicated but unbelievably generous".

It asks: "Why not find out if you are entitled to a generous tax credit claim?"

A section of the site devoted to help for foreign citizens details the range of help on offer.

It says: "Newcomers to the UK are often unaware of the Tax Credit system. By the time they’ve been made aware, often from existing friends in the UK, substantial claims have been lost.

"£millions in potential claims have been lost in the past simply through ignorance of the system."

It goes on to set out how people from countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia can receive restricted tax credits.

"Even those from non-EU countries or the special status countries can get tax credits under some circumstances. This is a complicated area, so you should seek our advice."

The website run by Mr Mackinlay's firm
The website run by Mr Mackinlay's firm

Craig Mackinlay said the work was "completely legitimate from a legal, moral and political perspective" and that had his firm refused to help foreign nationals, it would have been breaking the law.

The Conservative Party's manifesto sets out a pledge to stop immigrants from claiming tax credits until they have been earning for four years.

Recent figures suggest migrant workers cost British taxpayers £5 billion a year in tax credits.

"We have helped some foreign nationals to claim tax credits. This is completely legitimate from a legal, moral and political perspective..." - Craig Mackinlay

Almost £100 million a week is spent on the 415,000 foreign nationals working in Britain who are benefiting from the payments, according to an analysis by the government's Migration Advisory Committee.

On his own website, Mr Mackinlay writes: "I want to see a review of the current agreements for the freedom of movement within the EU – a sensible approach to restrict purely economic migration."

Mr Mackinlay provided the following statement in response to questions we asked about the work: "I run a small local business which employs 25 people.

"One of the things my business does is advise people on the tax they should pay and the tax credits they are entitled to.

"We have helped working parents with young children, entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses, and older people planning for their retirement.

"My company - and I - have a particular speciality when it comes to tax credits, which means we have helped significant numbers of people on low incomes to do their best for their families.

"As part of this work, we have also helped some foreign nationals to claim tax credits. This is completely legitimate from a legal, moral and political perspective: foreign nationals who are entitled to tax credits are working and making a contribution to our country.

Mr Mackinlay on the campaign trail with Boris Johnson last week
Mr Mackinlay on the campaign trail with Boris Johnson last week

"What's more, if we had refused to help foreign nationals in the way that my company helps British nationals, we would have been breaking the law.

"As part of our plans to reduce and control immigration, the Conservatives will limit in-work benefits for European nationals.

"This is the right thing to do because it will help to reduce European immigration and it will mean that people can only take out of the system once they have contributed already.

"If any candidates in this election are opposed to tax credits for people who are in work, they should say so now - because the public have a right to know."

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