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Does anyone actually understand the letters about Child Tax Credits?

Since we've been back in the UK we've been busy filling out forms for various government departments to reinstate the various credits/benefits we forfeited when we moved abroad. The forms take some filling in, but generally, with a bit of patience, some energy and a few calls to the various helplines they can be resolved relatively painlessly. Then the various departments start sending you letters, some of which make sense and some of which, frankly, could be written in Mongolian.

In particular, I'm thinking of the Child and Working Tax Credits. They write to us a lot. In fact they write to us twice every time they want to communicate. They write to us to tell us they are working out our credits, they write to tell us that their last calculation was wrong and actually it should be this instead, they write to us to say they are going to take money back out of our account because we've been overpaid (which you have to admit is good going when we've only been in the country less than 4 months).

They don't actually read the letter we send in with our original application explaining how our income will be different this year to last year (Bosnian salaries being somewhat less than UK ones) despite endless letters asking us to make sure that we let them know of any likely changes in income. When we finally manage to get hold of them to double check that they did read the letter they get an attack of the vapours and send us a few more letters.

Actually, I don't have a problem with all of these letters. At least I know we've not been lost in the system. No, my issue is this: Dave and I are both graduates (I've even got more than one degree, and I'm half way towards yet another one) and we are both highly numberate; I got an A at Maths A-Level which I didn't find that difficult and Dave writes software and sells it for a living. We know our way around numbers, we are comfortable with numbers, we can usually follow a calculation from start to logical finish.

Can we work out what the Tax Credit people are telling us? Can we f***. Not a clue. Not a scooby dooby dooby doooo. We have no idea if we are being paid the right amount or not. We can't tell whether the alterations they are making are accurate. We can't tell if we need to tell the Tax Credit people anything because we simply cannot work out how they are calculating the credits or how they are changing them (which they seem to be doing on a fairly frequent basis).

Of course the problem is exacerbated by never being able to get hold of a real life person in the system to talk to (although this post by Liz at Living With Kids did prove remarkably useful as the comments provided a phone number that got answered by a real life person!). But my real question is this: Are there any parents out there that actually understand the whole Child/Working Tax Credit system and have a clue what any of the letters they send us are actually about?

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Does anyone actually understand the letters about Child Tax Credits? + TIME