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Challenging benefits decisions and tax credit overpayments

Find out how you can challenge a decision on your claim and how to deal with tax credit overpayment recovery.

If you've been turned down for a benefit you applied for, or been awarded less than you had hoped for, you can dispute the decision by contacting the relevant administering body. This will either be the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the Department for Communities for people living in Northern Ireland (DfC) or Social Security Scotland for some of the benefits claimed by people living in Scotland (SSS).

Asking for a mandatory reconsideration

The first step in challenging a benefit decision made by any of the administering bodies (DWP/DFC or SSS), is usually to ask for a mandatory reconsideration (called a re-determination if administered by SSS). This is effectively a request from you, asking the office who made the decision on your benefit claim to look at your claim again. It is not an appeal. Time limits apply and depending on who is administering your benefit, you will have one month (DWP and DfC) or six weeks (SSS) from the date of the initial decision to make your request.

When asking for a mandatory reconsideration/re-determination you should:

  • Explain in as much detail as you can why you think you should be awarded the benefit, or why a higher rate of benefit should be paid.
  • Send any supporting evidence you may have along with your request. Evidence such as a letter from a medical professional, for example, your GP or consultant, or a social worker is always helpful.

You should receive a written mandatory reconsideration notice/re-determination notice in response to your request. If this is not in your favour, you can appeal the decision at an independent tribunal. Making an appeal can be a complicated process and if you think you will need help, you can ask someone to assist you. This person is called your representative and can be a friend or a relative.

Getting help with your appeal

It can take a lot of time to collate your information and evidence together in order to prepare for your appeal. An appeal panel, who are independent of the benefit administering body, can also consider and decide that you were awarded more benefits than you are entitled to, so your benefit can be reduced as well as increased or remain the same. Because of this, we recommend you be as prepared and informed as possible.

Our "Benefit appeals" factsheet gives more information on the process of challenging benefit decisions.

Our Challenging Benefit Decisions toolkit gives a comprehensive guide to both the reconsideration and appeal processes, along with step-by-step guides, template letters and a sample appeal submission.

If you’d like to discuss your benefit decision with one of our advisers, please call our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected].

Please note that we are only able to give advice on benefits to blind and partially sighted people and their carers or dependents.

Recovery of tax credit overpayments

Tax credits are administered by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). They are part of the benefits system that is being replaced by Universal Credit. Tax Credits comprise two parts: working tax credit and child tax credit and are awarded to people who are on a low income for their circumstances.

Overpayments and underpayments are a normal part of the tax credits system. This is because when you receive a tax credits award it is not finalised until after the end of the tax year for which it has been given.

If you have been advised that you have an overpayment of tax credits and action is being taken to recover it, please read our factsheet: