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Benefit overpayments

This advice applies to England

You may have been contacted by your benefit office because they think you are being paid more benefit than you should be getting.

This page tells you more about benefit overpayments and what to do if this may have happened.

If you’ve been overpaid benefit

You may have been contacted by your benefit office because you have been overpaid benefit.

An overpayment can happen for many reasons, for example because the benefit office made a mistake. Or because you didn’t know you had to tell the benefit office about a change of circumstances that meant you were entitled to less benefit or to stop getting benefit.

If you have received an overpayment of benefit it does not necessarily mean that you will be suspected or be guilty of benefit fraud if you were unaware of what you were doing. However, the benefit office may take action to recover the overpayment.

Civil penalties for causing an overpayment

In some cases, you may have to pay a civil penalty if you do something which causes an overpayment. This can happen if, for example, if you give wrong information or you keep quiet about something, and as a result you get more benefit than you're supposed to be getting.

You can only be asked to pay this penalty if you haven't committed fraud. If you have committed fraud, different rules apply. You can appeal against a decision to impose a civil penalty.

Benefit fraud and overpayments

If you are found guilty of committing benefit fraud it is likely that you will also have been overpaid benefit. The benefit office may take action to recover the overpayment in addition to prosecuting you for fraud.

What to do if you have been told you have been overpaid benefit

The benefit office should write to you to give reasons why you have been overpaid benefit. If you don’t get full written reasons you should ask for them.

You can also contact the benefit office and ask them to explain their decision and to tell them any information that you think will show you haven’t been overpaid benefit. This may sort the problem out.

If it doesn’t, you can dispute the overpayment if you don’t agree with it. However, you should only do this if you can show evidence to prove why you think you haven’t been overpaid benefit.

If you’ve been told you have been overpaid benefit, and you are not sure whether this information is correct, you should get help about what to do.

If you have also been accused of benefit fraud, you should get also get advice about what to do.

Benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions

For most  DWP benefits, if you want to dispute a decision about an overpayment caused after 28 October 2013, you must ask for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision before you can appeal it. The rules are different for some decisions made before this date.

Housing benefit and Council Tax Reduction

To dispute a Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction overpayment, contact your local authority.

Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit

To dispute an overpayment of tax credits or Child Benefit, contact Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Next steps

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