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Appealing a Child Benefit decision at tribunal

This advice applies to England

You can appeal to a tribunal if HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) didn't change their decision when you asked for a mandatory reconsideration.

The tribunal will be run by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and overseen by a judge. It's independent from HMRC - so you might get a different outcome.

It's free to appeal and you don't need a solicitor.

You can get help from a Citizens Advice adviser at any point in the appeal process. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to book an appointment. Take your mandatory reconsideration notice and original decision letter to your first appointment, if you can.

HMCTS must get your appeal within 1 month of the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice - so allow a few days for posting. You can find the date at the top of the notice.

Before you appeal

You must ask HMRC to look at their decision again. This is called a 'mandatory reconsideration'.

If you've missed the deadline

If it's less than 13 months since the date of your mandatory reconsideration notice, you might still be able to appeal. You'll need to have a good reason for the delay, for example:

  • you posted your appeal in time, but it was lost in the post
  • someone in your family was seriously ill
  • you made a mistake when working out the deadline

If HMRC don't accept your late appeal, the Tribunal service will decide whether or not to accept it.

Check whether it's worth appealing

Read the letter from HMRC with 'About your mandatory reconsideration' written at the top.

If you disagree with HMRC's reasons and have evidence to show why they're wrong, you should appeal to a tribunal. For example if you have evidence:

  • you're entitled to Child Benefit
  • you pass the right to reside test - if you're not from the UK

You don't need to have evidence to appeal, but it will give you more chance of getting the decision changed in your favour.

You can't appeal a decision about when your Child Benefit is paid, whether it gives you enough to live on, or whether you should have priority for the benefit over your ex-partner.

Filling in the appeal form

It's best to ask for an appeal by filling in the SSCS5 appeal form on the HMCTS website. The form guides you through what to include.

If you can't fill in the form, you can write a letter to ask for an appeal. Write 'Appeal' at the top of your letter and include:

  • your full name
  • your National Insurance number
  • the date at the top of your mandatory reconsideration notice
  • why you think the decision is wrong

If you've missed the 1 month deadline, you should also explain why you missed the deadline, and include evidence if you can. For example, if you were in hospital at the time.

Explaining why you're appealing

The most important part of the form is 'Section 5: About your appeal'. You need to give the specific reasons why you disagree with the decision.

Look at your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice and list each of the statements you disagree with and why. Describe the evidence you've sent to HMRC and how it supports your reasons for disagreeing with their decision.

Deciding if you should go to the appeal hearing

Section 6 of the appeals form asks if you want to be there when the judge considers your appeal - known as an 'oral hearing'.

You should go to the hearing, if you can. You'll have more chance to put your case forward and can answer any questions the judge might have.

The hearing won't be as formal as other court hearings and should only take about 40 minutes. You can bring some notes on what you'd like to say.

You can get help with the cost of travelling to the hearing on GOV.UK.

If you don't go to the hearing, you'll have what is called a 'paper hearing'. You'll miss out on being able to tell the tribunal about your case. You've a much better chance of getting the decision changed in your favour if you go to the hearing.

You can find out more about what happens at the hearing on GOV.UK.

Sending the appeal form

Check you've filled in everything then send the form to HMCTS. Ask the Post Office for proof of postage when you send it - you might need to prove when you posted it.

You'll need to send a copy of the mandatory reconsideration letter with the form.

HMCTS Appeals Centre
PO Box 1203
Bradford
BD1 9WP 

After you've sent the form

You should hear from HMCTS within 28 days. They'll send you:

  • a copy of HMRC's response
  • information about what happens next
  • details of when and where the hearing will be (if you've said you want to be there)

Sending new evidence

You don't need to send your evidence again with your appeal form - HMRC should pass on your mandatory reconsideration evidence to HMCTS for the appeal.

HMCTS will send you a copy of all the evidence they've got - called an 'appeal bundle'. If someone like a Citizens Advice adviser is helping with your appeal and has told HMRC they're your 'representative', they might be sent a copy instead.

You should check your appeal bundle has all the evidence you gave HMRC. If any evidence is missing, send it to HMCTS - explaining that HMRC didn't send it.

You can send evidence to HMCTS up to 1 month after you get the appeal bundle. If you miss this deadline, explain why when you send the evidence - HMCTS might extend it.

It's best to send any evidence before the day of your hearing. If you take new evidence with you the tribunal might be rescheduled to give the judge time to read the new evidence.

If HMRC changes the decision before the hearing

HMRC might write to you and HMCTS to say they've changed the decision before the appeal hearing.

If the change is in your favour, HMCTS will cancel the hearing - known as a 'lapsed appeal'. The letter from HMRC will tell you what to do if you're not happy with the new decision and still want to appeal.

The hearing will go ahead as planned if the change isn't in your favour - for example if it further reduces your Child Benefit.

Finding out the tribunal's decision

If you go to the hearing, you'll usually be told the decision on the day - and be given a written copy. If the judge needs longer to decide, or you're not at the hearing, they'll write to tell you their decision.

If you disagree with the decision

You might be able to appeal to an Upper Tribunal if the first tribunal made a mistake - called an 'error of law'. It's difficult to know if an error of law has been made, so you should get advice.

If you want to reopen a cancelled appeal

An appeal can be cancelled - known as 'struck out' - if you don't do something HMCTS asks for, like send them a certain document.

You can ask for an appeal that was cancelled to be looked at again - known as getting an appeal 'reinstated'. Write to HMCTS and tell them:

  • your full name and address
  • your National Insurance number
  • the decision you're appealing
  • the date your appeal was cancelled
  • why you didn't do something HMCTS asked for, if this was the reason your appeal was struck out
  • why you think your appeal should be looked at again

You should write within 1 month after HMCTS wrote to tell you about the cancellation. If you need this time extended, explain in your letter why you missed the 1-month deadline.

If your appeal was struck out for any other reason, you should still write to the tribunal and explain why you don't think your appeal should have been struck out. For example, if it was struck out because the tribunal didn't think you had a chance of success, but you disagree.

If the tribunal agree, they'll reopen your appeal.

If the tribunal don't agree to reopen your appeal, contact your nearest Citizens Advice to check if there's anything else you can do.

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