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First Tier Tribunal appeals process

Find out more about the First Tier Tribunal appeals process.

1. What is the First Tier Tribunal?

If you appeal against a benefit or tax credit decision a First Tier Tribunal will deal with your appeal.

This guide goes through the process of what happens after your appeal is received.

To find out how to appeal see Challenging benefit and tax credit decisions.

Tribunals are independent and completely separate from the benefit or tax credit office that made the decision you are appealing against.

They provide local hearings for benefit and tax credit appeals, they are more informal and have less complicated procedures than courts and are completely free to use.

Tribunal hearings are usually overseen by a panel comprising a Tribunal judge and Tribunal members. Tribunal judges are legally-qualified; Tribunal members are not legally-qualified but are trained volunteers.

The Tribunal is run by HM Courts and Tribunals Service or The Appeals Service (Northern Ireland).

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

2. What happens when your appeal form is received?

When the Tribunals or Appeals Service receive your appeal, they will send you or your representative (if you mentioned one on your appeal form) confirmation which will contain:

  • Contact details for the Tribunal

  • Your unique appeal number to be quoted by you if you contact them

  • Information they have about your appeal 

  • An enquiry form, which you will need to fill in and return within two weeks.

3. Response from the Benefit or Tax Credit office

The benefit or tax credit office will send the Tribunals or Appeals Service, as well as you (or your representative), their response to your appeal. This will include:

  • Copies of forms you have completed

  • Copies of all information or evidence you have sent to them

  • An explanation of how they came to their decision including the law they have based it on.

Actions

Read all the papers you receive carefully and note anything that you disagree with.

If anything in the letter from the Tribunals or Appeals Service is wrong, contact them straight away 

If you think that something important is missing from the benefit or tax credit office's response (like a letter you sent to them), ask them to add this to the appeal papers.

Complete the enquiry form and return it along with any further information or evidence within 14 days. Otherwise they may think you don't want to continue with your appeal and cancel it.

Enquiry form

The enquiry form that you will receive and must return helps the Tribunals or Appeals Service to arrange your appeal hearing.

You will be asked if you want your appeal dealt with as:

  • an Oral hearing where you and/or a representative appear in person to answer questions about your claim; or

  • a Paper hearing where the Tribunal just look at the evidence on paper without you or your representative present.

You may have a better chance of winning your appeal if you attend the hearing.

If you would like to attend and have accessibility needs, you should mention this on the enquiry form.
A suitable venue can be arranged with any equipment that may be needed.

The Tribunals or Appeals Service can cover the cost of transport so that you can attend your appeal. The clerk at the tribunal can refund these expenses on the day of the hearing.

If you will need a translator or a signer, you should also mention this on the enquiry form so it can be arranged in time for the hearing.

If you have arranged for someone to represent you at the appeal, you should put their details on the enquiry form.

If you can't find someone to represent you at the hearing, an adviser may still be able to help you put together your case, collect evidence to support your appeal, and prepare you to represent yourself.

You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local adviser.

The enquiry form also asks you to provide any further information or evidence to support your appeal. You should provide as much new relevant information as you can.

This could be:

  • A medical report from your GP or consultant

  • Bank statements

  • Extracts from relevant Council Tax legislation

  • Case law to support your appeal.If you are waiting for evidence, such as a letter from your doctor, put this on the form.

If you choose a paper hearing, you should send as much relevant information and evidence as possible. Make it clear what you think the decision should be and why, as this is all the Tribunal will see when making their decision.

The next page explains what happens at the appeal hearing.

4. The appeal hearing

The tribunal will hear your appeal as soon as possible after receiving your appeal form and will give you at least four weeks’ notice of the hearing date.

If you can't go to the hearing on the arranged date, you should contact the tribunal office. If you have a good reason for not being able to attend, they should be able to arrange another date.

Nearer the date you will be contacted to check if you are attending the hearing and you may be given an idea of the time it will take place.

Important

If you manage to settle your appeal with the benefit or tax credit office you can withdraw your appeal at any stage before the hearing date.

5. Oral hearing procedure

An oral hearing means that you and your representative (if you have one) can attend, or your representative can attend the hearing without you.

On the day of the hearing there is likely to be more than one case being heard and each is heard in turn.

The people on the tribunal panel will already have seen all the information and evidence about your case that has been sent to them.

When your case is heard you or your representative will be given a chance to explain in your own words why you think the decision is wrong. The benefit or tax credit office representative will also be able to explain how they came to their decision.

The tribunal panel can ask you questions about your case. If you have questions for the benefit or tax credit office representative you can ask these as well.

When the tribunal panel think they have all the information they need, they will ask you if you want to say anything else to support your case.

They will then ask you to leave the room so they can consider all the evidence and make their decision.
You may be told the final decision there and then.  Following the hearing you will then receive the decision in writing within one month.

Important

If you ask for an oral hearing and neither you nor your representative attend, the tribunal may dismiss your appeal.

6. Paper hearing

A paper hearing means that the tribunal judge and other tribunal members will only consider the written evidence in private and you and your representative (if you have one) do not attend a hearing.

You will not be told when the private hearing is taking place.

You will be sent the decision in writing after the paper hearing.

If you want more details about the reasons for the tribunal’s decision, you can ask for this by writing to the Tribunals or Appeals Service within one month.

Tip

You may have a better chance of winning your appeal if you choose an oral hearing and you attend the hearing

7. Possible outcomes of tribunals

The benefit or tax credit office will have to make any changes it has been ordered to by the tribunal.

If the tribunal agree that the decision was wrong, you will receive a letter from the benefit or tax credit office confirming that the decision has been changed and the amount of any benefit or tax credit payment that may be owed to you as a result.

If the tribunal decides it can't change the decision, you will receive a letter confirming this.

8. If you still think the decision is wrong

You can only appeal against the tribunal's decision if they are wrong on a point of law.

You will need specialist advice if you think this is the case. You can use the Turn2us Find an Adviser tool to find a local one.

The time limits for appealing against a tribunal decision are strict so it is important to seek specialist advice quickly after receiving your decision.