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Benefits Overpayment - Will I have to repay the overpayment?

Guide to Benefits Overpayments, what they are, why they happen and what you should do if you have been overpaid

Will I have to repay the overpayment?

This guide does not apply to overpayments of Universal Credit, New Style Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If you have been overpaid any of these benefits, please use our guide on Overpayments under the Universal Credit system.

This page applies to overpayments of the following benefits:

  • Income Support

  • Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) (but not New Style JSA),

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (but not New Style ESA),

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

If you have an overpayment of any of these benefits, most of the time you cannot be asked to pay it back. You can only be asked to pay the overpayment back if the benefits office can show that you misrepresented something or failed to disclose something which affected your award.

If you have an overpayment of Housing Benefit, use our page on Housing Benefit Overpayments.

If you have an overpayment of Universal Credit, New Style ESA or New Style JSA, use our page on Overpayments under the Universal Credit system

If you have an overpayment of tax credits, use our Tax credits overpayment guide.

Misrepresentation

Misrepresentation means that you have given information that is not correct or is incomplete. It may happen when you:

  • Make a claim for benefit by telephone or on a claim form

  • Fill in a form or write a letter or sign a document

  • Speak to someone at a benefits office.

The benefits office might decide that it was misrepresentation if you gave wrong information on a claim form and the award has always been incorrect.

To avoid misrepresentation, make sure that you:

  • Answer questions that the benefits office asks you correctly, checking your facts first if unsure

  • Do not ignore questions

  • Check that information is correct before you sign any form

  • Check the decision letter you receive when benefit is awarded.

Failure to disclose

A failure to disclose might apply to an award of benefit that has become incorrect because you either failed to:

  • Give accurate and complete information that you were asked to give, or

  • Report a change of circumstances that you could have reasonably been expected to know might affect your benefit.

Failure to disclose may happen where you:

  • Make a claim for benefits or complete a form

  • Speak to someone at a benefits office

  • Do not report a change which you could reasonably be expected to know affects your benefits.

To avoid failure to disclose, make sure you:

  • Answer all questions the benefits office ask you accurately and completely

  • Read all letters from the benefits office

  • Read leaflets sent to you about your benefits

  • Note the changes that you must report

  • Report any changes which you think may affect your benefits.

What if I did not misrepresent or fail to disclose?

If the benefits office decides that the overpayment was not caused by your misrepresentation or failure to disclose, the overpayment will not be recoverable and you cannot be made to repay it.

No civil penalty can be imposed if the overpayment is not recoverable.

However, even if an overpayment is not recoverable, the benefits office may ask in their letter whether you want to pay it back anyway. If this happens, seek advice from a benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local one.

Please note: Your duty to report changes of circumstances is set out in the letters awarding benefit to you. If, for some reason, you were not notified of your obligations, an overpayment may not be recoverable.

For example, if you are visually impaired and asked the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to provide letters and leaflets about your benefits in large print but you only ever received letters in ordinary text. You may be able to argue you were not properly notified of your obligations to report specific changes of circumstances.

Will I always have to repay if I misrepresented or failed to disclose?

Even if an overpayment is recoverable, the benefits office can decide not to seek recovery or may accept partial recovery.

You can ask the debt recovery centre not to recover or to accept a lower rate of repayment. They are unlikely to agree unless you can show that you did not know that you were being overpaid and that it is very difficult for you to repay. You should contact the office shown on the letter you have received about the overpayment recovery to discuss this. We also recommend that you get advice. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local adviser.

Can I be made to repay my partner’s overpayment?

Overpaid benefits can only be recovered from the person whose misrepresentation or failure to disclose caused the overpayment and cannot usually be recovered from anyone other than the claimant.

If, however, you or your partner are overpaid the following benefits and you were a couple at the time of the overpayment, it may be recovered from either partner's ongoing benefit as long as you remain a couple:

Seek advice from a benefits adviser if you are asked to repay your former partner’s overpaid benefit. You can find an adviser near you using our Find an Adviser tool

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