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Challenging a Child Benefit or Guardian's Allowance decision

If you think a Child Benefit or Guardian's Allowance decision is wrong, you may be able to: - Ask for an explanation - Have the decision looked at again - Appeal against the decision This guide takes you through these options.

1. What are my options?

If you think a Child Benefit or Guardian's Allowance decision is wrong, you may be able to:

  • Ask for an explanation
  • Have the decision looked at again
  • Appeal against the decision

This guide takes you through these options.

Applies to: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Advice: If you need advice about a benefits or tax credits decision, you should contact a benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local one.

2. Ask for an explanation

You don’t have to ask for an explanation of the decision but you may want to if you are unsure whether the decision is right or if you want more information to help you challenge the decision.

Action

Contact the benefit office using the contact details on your decision letter and ask for a written explanation for the decision.

You should also tell them why you think the decision is wrong as they may be able to change it without needing to go any further.

If your first language isn't English, the benefit office should provide an interpreter to explain the decision.

Tip

If you telephone the benefit office make a note of:

  • The date and time you call

  • Who you speak to

  • What is said. This may come in useful if you want to try to get the decision changed..

Time limits

You should ask for an explanation of the decision as soon as possible as there are strict time limits if you want to go on to challenge the decision.

Important

If you request a written explanation of the reasons for the decision within one month of the date on the decision letter, the time limit to challenge the decision will be extended. The new limit will be:

  • One month and 14 days from the decision date (if the written reasons are provided within one month of the decision date); otherwise

  • 14 days from the date the written reasons are provided.

This only applies if the reasons were not provided in the decision letter you received. If you are in any doubt, stick to the usual time limits.

Possible outcomes

An explanation will usually be provided by telephone, but must be in writing if you requested a written explanation.

If you ask for a written explanation for the decision you will usually receive this within 14 days.

After hearing or receiving the explanation, you may agree with the decision, or you may think the decision is wrong.

If you think the decision is wrong, for example, because it was based on information that was wrong or they did not have all the information, you should tell them. They may be able to change the decision and send you a new decision letter without you needing to go any further, or they can explain what you can do next.

If you still think the decision is wrong:

Your options depend on the date of the decision,

If your decision was made before 28 October 2013 you can have the decision looked at again (old process), or you may be able to appeal against the decision (old process) straight away.

If your decision was made on or after 28 October 2013 you must have the decision looked at again (new process) before you can appeal against the decision (new process).
 

3. Have the decision looked at again

You should ask the Child Benefit Office of HMRC to look at the decision again if you think the decision is wrong.

This is known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ of the decision.

Action

Write to the Child Benefit office using the contact details on your decision letter and ask them to look at the decision again.

You should tell them in detail why you think the decision is wrong including any relevant dates.

You should send the letter recorded delivery so there is a record of when it was sent and also keep a copy of the letter.

A different decision maker will look at the decision and decide whether it should be changed.

If you are asked for more information or evidence, you should provide this as soon as possible and let them know if there will be a delay.

Time limits

You have one month from the date on the decision letter to ask for the decision to be looked at again.

You may get longer if you ask for an explanation of the decision to be sent to you.

If you missed the deadline for reasons out of your control, such as illness or bereavement, you may still be able to have your decision looked at again.

When you contact the benefit office, you should explain why you missed the deadline including details of any special circumstances that prevented you contacting them in time.

Possible outcomes

When the decision has been looked at again you will be sent a mandatory reconsideration notice containing the new decision.

If they decide the decision is wrong they will change it.

If they decide that they can’t change the decision they will write to you to confirm this and tell you if you have a right to appeal.

Keep the mandatory reconsideration notice safe, you will need it if you want to appeal against this decision.

If you still think the decision is wrong:

You may be able to appeal against the decision (new process), find out more on the next page.

 

Updated: December 2017

4. Appeal against the decision


If you are not happy with HMRC's mandatory reconsideration notice (see previous page) then you can move onto the second stage of the appeals process and ask an independent tribunal to look at the decision.  You must have asked for a mandatory reconsideration before you can appeal to the tribunal.

When you appeal a decision, it will be looked at by an independent tribunal, which is completely separate from the HMRC Child Benefit Office.

How do I appeal?

You must make your appeal in writing to the tribunal service directly. HMRC will not automatically send the appeal to the tribunal service.

If you appeal on the official appeal form this can help you to give all the information that is needed.

In England, Wales and Scotland, you can find the appeal form - SSCS5 - on the GOV.UK website.  There are also guidance notes that will help you fill the form.  You will need to send one copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice that you received from HMRC, with your appeal to the tribunal service.

In Northern Ireland you will need to use appeal form NOA1 (HMRC).

Time limit

In England, Wales and Scotland, you have one calendar month from the date on the mandatory reconsideration notice that you received from HMRC (see previous page).

Send your appeal to:

England and Wales: HMCTS SSCS Appeals Centre, PO Box 1203, Bradford, BD1 9WP.

Scotland: HMCTS SSCS Appeals Centre, PO Box 27080, Glasgow, G2 9HQ.

Northern Ireland: The Appeals Service.9th Floor Millennium House,17 Great Victoria Street, Belfast, BT2 7AQ


Late appeal

If you missed the deadline for reasons out of your control, such as illness or bereavement, you may be given more time to appeal.

When you appeal you should explain why it is late.  There is a special section on the appeal form where you can give reasons why your appeal is late.  If HMRC do not object to your reasons for appealing late, they will carry on with the appeal as if it was made on time.

If HMRC do object to your late appeal, the Tribunal will write to you and they will decide whether to accept the late appeal, if you made the appeal within 13 months from the date on the mandatory reconsideration notice. After 13 months, the appeal cannot be accepted even if you have good reason for it being late.
 

Possible outcomes

Look again at the decision

If they haven’t already, a different decision maker will look at the decision and decide whether it should be changed.

If they decide that they can’t change the original decision, your appeal will carry on.

If they decide that the original decision is wrong, they will change the decision and send you a new decision letter:

If the new decision makes you better off your appeal will stop. You can appeal this new decision if you think it is wrong

If the new decision does not make you better off, your appeal will carry on, but now it will be against the new decision. Send appeal on to Tribunal Service

If your appeal carries on, your appeal form will be sent to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, who run the First Tier Tribunal. The benefit office will also include their response. This explains:

  • How they came to their decision

  • What information they used

  • What benefit law they based their decision on. 

The First Tier Tribunal

The First Tier Tribunal will decide if you are legally entitled to a benefit and can change a decision if they think it is wrong.

The tribunal could make a decision that leaves you worse off so it is often best to seek advice before deciding whether to appeal.

The tribunal cannot:

*Change the law

*Deal with administrative complaints, like delay or poor service
(see complaints about your claim)

*Consider changes of circumstances which have taken place since the decision was made - you may be able to make a new benefit or tax credit claim.

For information about what happens when your appeal is received by the Tribunal Service (England, Scotland and Wales), or Appeals Service (Northern Ireland), see Turn2us information on First Tier Tribunal Appeals.
 
Updated December 2017