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Challenging a Tax Credit decision

Find out more about Challenging a Tax Credit decision.

1. What are my options for challenging a Tax Credit decision?

If you think a tax credit decision is wrong, you may be able to:

  • Ask for an explanation.
  • Challenge the decision.

You can challenge the decision by firstly:

  • Asking the decision to be looked at again; and secondly:
  • Appealing against the decision.

This guide takes you through the options.

Tax Credit Overpayments

If you agree you were overpaid but it was not your fault, and you should not have to pay it back, you have to 'dispute' the overpayment rather than challenge it.  You can see more about disputing overpayments in our Tax Credit overpayments guide.  

However, if HMRC say you have been overpaid, you can challenge the decision on your tax credit entitlement if:

  • You think you were entitled to what you received or;
  • You think that the amount of tax credits you were awarded is wrong.

Read more about challenging a decision in this guide.

If you are not sure which to do, you may want to challenge and dispute at the same time, or get advice.


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.


Reviewed: July 2017

2. Ask for an explanation about Tax Credits

You should ask for an explanation of the reasons for the decision if you are unsure whether the decision is right or if you want more information to help you challenge the decision.


Telephone the tax credit office using the contact details on your decision letter and ask for an explanation for the decision.  You should be aware that the time limit for challenging and disputing a decision will still run while you are asking for an explanation and you should be careful that you do not miss the deadline.

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 tax credit office should provide an interpreter to explain the decision.


If you telephone the tax credit 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 reasons for the decision as soon as possible as there are strict time limits if you want to go on to challenge the decision.

Possible outcomes

This action should help you understand the reasons for the decision.

An explanation will usually be provided by telephone.

After receiving the explanation you may think the decision is correct or you may think the decision is wrong, for example, because it was based on information that was wrong or they did not have all the information, in which case 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 you can ask to have the decision looked at again.


Reviewed July 2017

3. Have the Tax Credit decision looked at again

You should ask the tax credit office to look at the decision again if you think the decision is wrong.

You may hear this called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’, ‘revision’, or ‘review’ of the decision.


Contact the tax credit office using the contact details on your decision letter and ask them to look at the decision again.  This is called a mandatory reconsideration and is the first stage of the appeals process.

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

You can either do this by using form WTC/AP (either by printing and sending it by post or filling it in online) or you can send a written letter.  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 can ask for the decision to be looked at again within 30 days of the date of the original decision.

If the Tax Credit office has made an error, which you have not contributed to, you have five years from the date of decision to ask them to look at the decision again.

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 up to 13 months from the date of decision. This is called a late mandatory reconsideration request.

If you have missed the time limit, you should explain why when you contact the tax credit office.

Possible outcomes

When the decision has been looked at again, if they decide it is wrong, the decision will be changed and you will be sent a new decision letter.

If they decide that they can’t change the decision, they will write to you to confirm this by sending you two copies of the Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.  They will also tell you if you have a right to appeal to an independent tribunal.  There are strict time limits for doing this.

If you still think the decision is wrong you may be able to appeal against the decision, see the next page for more details.


Reviewed July 2017

4. Appeal against the Tax Credits 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 Tax Credit Office.


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) In Northern Ireland you must send your appeal to the appeals service within 30 days of the date the mandatory reconsideration notice was sent to you (the date on the top of the notice). 

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.

The First Tier Tribunal

Once your appeal form is received by the tribunal (or appeals service in Northern Ireland) you will normally receive an enquiry form.   You might be able to get help from a local advice agency with your appeal.  The tribunal will ask HMRC for more information about your case and you will receive copies of the papers that HMRC send to the tribunal. You can read more about what happens when you appeal in our First Tier Tribunal Appeals guide.

The First Tier Tribunal will decide if you are legally entitled to a benefit and can change a decision if they 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 our First Tier Tribunal Appeals guide.


Reviewed: July 2017