A WIDOWER has been ordered to pay more than £1,200 by the tax man due to claims his terminally ill wife was working in the months before her death.

Stephen Lane, 47, has received a letter from HM Revenue and Customs calling on him to repay child tax credits for a four month period in 2014 as the department says his wife Jane, a former teacher who died in June that year aged 48, had earned £20,002 over the financial year.

Mr Lane, who was his wife's full time carer, said she had been far too ill that year to have been working, and their only income other than benefits had been his £2,002 earned doing occasional maintenance work at a church.

"They're saying she was earning money, but during those last few months of her life she spent half her time in hospital, going in and out of life support," said Mr Lane, who lives with his 13-year-old son Alfie in Winton.

"In the last month of her life she was only home for three days. They even mention on the letter that she was entitled to the highest level disability care allowance, how can they think she was employed?"

It is the second time since his wife's death from multiple sclerosis that Mr Lane, 47, has received a demand from HMRC addressed to Jane as though she were still alive, and in February last year when on the phone to the department he was even asked to put his wife on.

This time he believes they may have made a clerical error.

"It is very frustrating," he said. "When you have lost someone you don't need to be reminded of it, it would be better to get all this out of the way straight away.

"They made a mistake last time and I know they are under a lot of pressure, but this is confusing and misleading people. The people at HMRC are paid enough to do their jobs properly."

An HMRC spokesman said: "We apologise for issuing the automated letter.

"It is important for tax credit claimants to tell us about changes to their circumstances as soon possible, so that they receive the correct amount of money and protect themselves against overpayments.

"If the claimant later provides information that shows our decision to be incorrect we take urgent steps to put things right, reinstating the award from when it was stopped or amended."