SOME 140,000 families are raking in more in benefits than the average take-home salary, it has been revealed.

The households are pocketing more than £20,000 in handouts every year, according to official estimates.

The scale of the payments is likely to anger millions of families struggling to cope with the fallout from the economic downturn.

The average salary before tax is just over £25,000, but after deductions that sum shrinks to just over £19,000. In contrast, benefits are tax-free.

Employment minister Tony McNulty insisted the 140,000 represented just 1% of households with at least one person of working age.

"The benefits being received by these households will, in the majority of cases, include disability-related benefits and premiums," he added.

But Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Chris Grayling, who obtained the information using Parliamentary questions, said the number was still "an awful lot".

Many families would be receiving tens of thousands of pounds in housing benefit alone, he added.

Around 2.7 million people are on incapacity benefit, but the Government accepts that a large proportion of those should be working.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell announced radical plans this month to get millions off benefits and into work, including reforming incapacity benefit and forcing lone parents to seek employment.