ALMOST 18,000 families in the region have been hit by child benefit changes - swiping up to £2,450-a-year from a couple with three children.

They are households where someone earns more than £50,000 a year, under the controversial shake-up that came into force today (Monday, January 7).

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Any family where one parent earns over £60,000 loses all child benefit, currently worth £20.30 a week for the first child and £13.40 a week for each additional child.

Those earning between £50,000 and £60,000 will lose some of the money, after the government staged a partial climbdown.

Now the figures, released to MPs, have revealed that 17,710 families in parliamentary constituencies in this region were sent letters, informing them they would be affected.

The highest totals were in North Yorkshire, in Harrogate and Knaresborough (1,920), York Outer (1,530), Skipton and Ripon (1,440) and Richmond (1,350).

In the North-East, most letters went to the seat of Stockton South (1,180), followed by City of Durham (840) and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (800).

In stark contrast, only 270 households contain someone earning more than £50,000 in Middlesbrough - and just 280 in Easington.

More than 250,000 high earners across Britain have opted out of the new High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC) altogether, to avoid having to fill in self-assessment tax forms.

That deadline has now expired, which means anyone earning more than £50,000 - who failed to opt out - will have some child benefit clawed back in higher tax.

The deadline for registering for self-assessment is October 5 - or families affected will be fined.

David Cameron has defended the policy as ”fundamentally fair”, adding: ”I'm not saying those people are rich, but I think it is right that they make a contribution.

”If we don't raise that from that group of people - the better off 15 per cent in the country - we would have to find someone else to take it from.”

The Northern Echo: child benefit

But the change has been attacked for ending the universal principle of child benefit and for the Treasury’s apparent failure to inform 300,000 affected families.

Most controversially, a family where two parents work and both earn £49,000 a year will keep their benefits - while a family with a single earner on £50,000-plus will lose part of theirs.

Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, attacked the “complete shambles“, saying: “If you are a one-earner family on £60,000 you lose it, if you are a two-earner family on £75,000 you keep it – what’s fair about that?“ Meanwhile, tax experts have put forward suggestions for avoiding the cut, by lowering “adjusted net income” on self-assessment forms.

Those tips include paying more into a company pension scheme, giving more money to charity - or even buying a holiday from an employer, through “salary sacrifice”.