Skip to content Skip to footer

This advice applies to England. Change country

Challenging a benefit decision - where to start

If you want to challenge a decision made about a benefit, you need to make sure you follow the right procedure if you want to try and get the decision changed.

This page tells you more about the appeals process you should follow for benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). For benefits paid by HMRC, the procedure to follow depends on when the decision was made.

These pages do not cover challenging decisions on Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction.

Benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions

Benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Bereavement benefits
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Social Fund payments
  • State Pension
  • Universal Credit
  • Widow's benefits.

Benefits paid by HM Revenue and Customs

  • Child Benefit
  • Guardian's Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit.

Challenging a DWP benefit decision

When was the decision made

It is important to check the date when the decision about your benefit was made. This is important because if you want to challenge the decision, you must do so within certain time limits.

Your decision letter will tell you the date of the decision and also whether you have the right of appeal.

Asking for the decision to be looked at again

If you want to change a DWP benefit decision, you have to ask the DWP to look at the decision again before you can appeal. This is called mandatory reconsideration.

You must normally ask for a DWP decision to be looked at again within one month of the date of the decision. This deadline may be extended if there are special circumstances why you couldn't apply within the time limit.

The DWP decision letter will say whether mandatory reconsideration applies and tell you how to ask for it. You will usually be able to ask for a reconsideration over the phone or in writing, but it best to apply in writing or to confirm your phone call in writing.

You can't appeal until you get a decision from the DWP on your request for a reconsideration. This is called a mandatory reconsideration notice.

Appealing against a DWP benefit decision

If you disagree with the outcome of the reconsideration, you can then appeal directly to an independent tribunal. You must send a written appeal directly to HM Courts and Tribunal Service, not to the DWP. This is known as direct lodgement.

If you decide to appeal, your appeal must arrive at the Tribunal Service within one month of the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice. This time limit can only be extended in special circumstances.

Challenging an HMRC benefit decision

When was the decision made?

It is important to check when the decision on your tax credit or HMRC benefit was made so you can work out which appeals process to use.

For decisions made on or after 6 April 2014

You will have to ask for a mandatory reconsideration of your benefit or tax credit decision before you can appeal.

The time limit for asking for a mandatory reconsideration is:

  • 30 days from the date of the decision for Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit decisions
  • one month from the date of the decision for Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance decisions.

These time limits may be extended in special circumstances.

For decisions made before 6 April 2014

In most cases, it is too late to challenge a decision that was made before 6 April 2014.

However, HMRC can accept late challenges on a decision using the old appeals system up to 13 months after it was made if you have a good reason why your challenge is late. This could be, for example, because you've been in hospital, coping with bereavement or living abroad.

If the time limit for challenging the decision has run out and you are not sure what to do, you can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

More useful information

For a copy of the HMRC factsheet 'Tax credits: if you think a decision is wrong', including a reconsideration request form, go to www.gov.uk.

For a copy of the HMRC factsheet 'Child Benefit or Guardian's Allowance: if you think a decision is wrong', including a reconsideration request form, go to www.gov.uk.

Next steps