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Appealing a tax credits decision at a tribunal

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

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 is independent of HMRC and will be made up of 1 or 2 experts, for example a solicitor and an accountant. They’ll look at your evidence and hear what you have to say. They’ll also look at any evidence from HMRC and then make a decision. 

Before you appeal to a tribunal

You must ask HMRC to look at their decision again - called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ - before you can appeal to a tribunal. See challenging a working or child tax credits decision for how to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

When you should appeal to a tribunal

You should appeal to a tribunal if, after reading the reasons on the ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’, you still think:

  • you’ve been paid the wrong amount
  • you’ve been wrongly refused tax credits
  • your tax credits shouldn’t have been stopped
  • you were paid the correct amount and HMRC wrongly thinks you’ve had an overpayment 

The mandatory reconsideration notice is the letter from HMRC with ‘About your mandatory reconsideration’ written at the top. You’ll need to send a copy of this notice when you ask for an appeal.  

The tribunal could decide to reduce your tax credits even more or increase your overpayment. For example, if your tax credits have stopped and there’s evidence they should have stopped even earlier. 

You should be sure you have a good chance of getting your tax credits increased  or your overpayment cancelled before you ask for an appeal. If you’re not sure, visit your nearest Citizens Advice for help.

Getting specialist help

You can get help from a Citizens Advice adviser at any point in the appeals process. They can help you:

  • fill in the form to ask for an appeal
  • understand any documents you’re sent
  • reply to any letters from the tribunal or HMRC
  • photocopy and post documents
  • prepare for the appeal hearing
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.

The Appeals Service (TAS) must get your appeal within 30 days of the mandatory reconsideration notice - so allow time for posting. You can find the date at the top of the notice. 

If you’ve missed the deadline

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

The tribunal will extend the time you have to appeal if HMRC agrees you had a good reason. Even if HMRC doesn’t agree, the tribunal will extend the time if they think it was unfair of HMRC not to give you an extension. 

Filling in the appeal form

To ask for an appeal you’ll need to fill in the appeal form on the TAS website. The form guides you through what to include, but if you’re not sure about anything, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you fill in the form. 

You can ask for an appeal by writing to TAS, but it’s better to use the form as it’s easier to include all the information TAS need. 

If you ask for an appeal in writing, 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

HMRC should pass on any evidence you gave them for your mandatory reconsideration to the appeals service. You don’t need to send it again with your appeal form or letter.

TAS will send you a copy of all the evidence they’ve received - called an ‘appeal bundle’. It’s important to check this has all the evidence you gave HMRC. If anything is missing, you should send it to TAS - explaining that HMRC failed to send it to TAS.

If you want to reopen a cancelled appeal

An appeal can be cancelled  - known as ‘struck out’ -  if you fail to do something TAS asks for, like sending them a certain document. TAS will write to warn you that your appeal is in danger of being cancelled - to give you a chance to stop it.

You can ask to have a cancelled appeal looked at again - known as getting an appeal ‘reinstated’. Write to TAS and include:

  • your full name and address
  • your National Insurance number
  • the decision you’re appealing
  • the date your appeal was cancelled
  • why you failed to do something TAS asked for
  • why you think your appeal should be looked at again

You should write no more than 1 month after TAS wrote to tell you about the cancellation. If you need this time extended, explain in your letter why you missed the 1 month deadline.

Explaining why you’re appealing

The most important part of the form is ‘Section 6: Grounds for appeal’. In this box you need to give the specific reasons why you disagree with the decision. 

Use your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice to list each of the statements you disagree with and why. Give facts and examples - and mention the evidence you’ve sent to HMRC to support what you’re saying. You can use the same examples and evidence as for your mandatory reconsideration.

Going to the appeal hearing

You’ll be sent a Hearing Type Enquiry (HTE) form asking if you want to be there when the tribunal considers your appeal - known as an ‘oral hearing’. 

It’s always better to go to the hearing, if you can. You’ll have more opportunity to put your case forward and can answer any questions the tribunal might have.

You can take your representative with you, if you have one. Or you can ask someone to go with you for moral support.

If you ask for the hearing to be done without you - called a ‘paper hearing’ - you’ll miss out on being able to tell the tribunal about your case. You’ll have a much better chance of success if you go to the hearing in person.

Sending the appeal form

Send the completed form to TAS by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt - you might need prove when you posted it and when it arrived. 

The Appeals Service 
PO Box 2202
Belfast
BT1 9GJ

TAS will check the form and then ask HMRC for their response within 28 days. 

TAS will 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 asked for an oral hearing, rather than a paper one) 

Reaching an agreement with HMRC before the tribunal

HMRC might contact you to offer a solution to your tax credits problem. You don’t have to agree to it and can decide to still go to the tribunal. 

If you do want to accept what HMRC are offering, you must write to TAS with details of what you’ve agreed. Your appeal will then be cancelled. 

It’s a good idea to get advice, before agreeing a deal with HMRC. 

Finding out the tribunal’s decision

You’ll be sent a letter explaining the tribunal’s decision, even if you went to the tribunal. 

If you go to the hearing, you’ll usually be told the tribunal’s decision there. If the judge needs longer to decide, they’ll write to tell you their decision.

If you disagree with the tribunal’s decision

You might be able to appeal to the Social Security Commissioners if you disagree with the first tribunal’s decision. An adviser can help you decide if you should appeal further and can help you prepare your appeal. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to get an appointment. 

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