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Challenging a working or child tax credits decision - mandatory reconsideration

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You can tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if you think a decision about your tax credits is wrong and should be changed. Asking them to look at your claim again is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.  

You can ask for a mandatory reconsideration if:

  • you’ve been refused tax credits
  • you think you’ve been paid the wrong amount
  • your tax credits have stopped - see reasons why they might have stopped
  • HMRC thinks you’ve been overpaid when you haven’t
  • your claim has been backdated to the wrong date

If you claim as a couple, only one of you needs to ask for the mandatory reconsideration.

Before you ask for a mandatory reconsideration

If you’re not sure you have a good chance of getting your tax credits decision changed in your favour visit your nearest Citizens Advice for help. Try to get in touch straightaway - you might have to wait for an appointment and only have 30 days to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

HMRC could decide to reduce your tax credits if they look at your claim again. If this happens, you’ll have been overpaid since the date of the original decision – and will need to pay this money back. 

You have 30 days from the date of the decision to ask for a mandatory reconsideration. You’ll find the date at the top of the letter that told you the decision.

If the decision was more than 30 days ago

You can still ask for a mandatory reconsideration, as long as it’s within 13 months of the tax credits decision. You’ll need to give a good reason for why you couldn’t ask in time, like:

Call the tax credits helpline and explain why you missed the 30-day deadline. They’ll extend the deadline if they agree you had good reason. If they refuse, you can make a complaint on GOV.UK. 

HMRC tax credits helpline
Telephone: 0345 300 3900
Textphone: 0345 300 3909
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturday, 8am to 4pm
Sunday, 9am to 5pm

Calls cost up to 12p a minute from landlines and 45p a minute from mobiles. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract. 

If the decision letter was sent more than 13 months ago (but no more than 5 years ago) HMRC will only change the decision if they made a mistake – known as an ‘official error’. This includes if HMRC:

  • made a mistake when calculating your tax credits
  • overlooked a piece of evidence you sent them
  • misunderstood some evidence you sent
  • got a fact or point of law wrong - for example, if they didn’t take all of your children into account or include a disability payment

Write to HMRC if you think they made an official error. In your letter include:

  • your full name
  • your national insurance number
  • the date of the decision
  • what the official error was and how it affected your tax credits

Make a copy then send your letter to:

HMRC Tax Credit Office
Preston
PR1 4AT

It’s a good idea to send your letter by Royal Mail Signed For, if you can. You can then prove when you sent it and when it arrived.

Finding evidence to support your challenge

To get HMRC to change a decision, you’ll need to clearly explain why it was wrong - and send copies of any evidence to support your argument.

If you reported a change in circumstance

Your tax credits might have stopped or been reduced if HMRC missed a change you reported. 

If you wrote to HMRC to report the change, send copies of the letter and proof of postage, if you can. You can also send a copy of any emails you sent to report the change. 

If you used the HMRC webchat and saved or printed a copy of the conversation, send it to HMRC. If you didn’t save the chat, tell HMRC the date and time of the chat.

If you called HMRC to report the change, write to them to ask for an audio or written copy of the call. This is known as a ‘subject access request’. Write ‘Subject access request’ at the top of the letter and include the date and time of the call. Sign the letter and send it to:

HM Revenue and Customs Tax Credit Office
Subject Access Request Team
Area E, Floor 1
St Marks House
St Marys Street
Preston
PR1 4AT

If you’d like a Citizens Advice adviser to also get a copy of the call, in your letter give permission for HMRC to send them one. Write the full name of the adviser and the address of the Citizens Advice where they work.

It can take 6-8 weeks for a subject access request to come through, so don’t wait for it. Send the form asking for the mandatory reconsideration within the 30-day deadline. Say on the form that you’ve made a subject access request and will send the evidence to HMRC when you have it. 

If you need to prove you live alone

Your tax credit decision can be wrong if HMRC thinks you live with a partner when you don’t - for example, if you’ve recently split up with someone.

If you’re in touch with the person HMRC thinks you live with, ask them for a copy of a recent bill. A bill from another address will help prove that they don’t live with you. As well as household bills, this could be an entertainment subscription, like Sky or Netflix. 

You should also send copies of one or more of the following:

  • a letter from your landlord confirming only you live there
  • your tenancy agreement - to show it’s in just your name
  • bank statements for as long as HMRC thinks you’ve been living together - for security, use a pen to cover your account number and sort code
  • rates bills and utility bills in just your name

If you need to prove you’re self-employed

You can see the things HMRC looks for when deciding if someone is self-employed on GOV.UK. To prove you meet these requirements, send copies of one or more of the following - dating back to when you started your tax credits claim:

  • your monthly profit and loss accounts
  • invoices you’ve sent to customers
  • receipts for equipment you use, like a work laptop or printer ink
  • statements from your business bank account - for security, use a pen to cover the account number and sort code
  • stubs from business cheques you’ve written
  • statements from your personal bank account showing your business expenses

 

Asking for a mandatory reconsideration

You should ask for a mandatory reconsideration by filling in a reconsideration form available from GOV.UK. 

If you can’t fill in a form online, you can write to HMRC to ask for a mandatory reconsideration. Make sure you include:

  • your full name
  • your national insurance number
  • the date of the decision you want changed
  • why you think the decision was wrong

The reconsideration form guides you through what to include in each section. If you have any problems filling it in, you can get help from your local Citizens Advice. Tell them the date of your decision letter and the 30-day deadline and they’ll try to give you an appointment in time.  

It’s a good idea to send your form or letter and copies of any evidence by Royal Mail Signed For, if you can. You can then prove when you sent them and when they arrived.

What happens next 

Once HMRC gets your request for a mandatory reconsideration, they’ll contact you if they need more information to support your challenge.

It usually takes 14 working days for HMRC to make a decision - but it can take longer. If your reconsideration is taking months, you can make a complaint on GOV.UK. When HMRC get your complaint they’ll try to solve the problem.

While you’re waiting for the mandatory reconsideration

You can get emergency expenses to help pay for fuel or items you need for your house - for example a bed or cooker.

See help for people on a low income for how to apply.

You can also talk to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice to see if there are any other benefits you could apply for. 

You’ll be sent a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’ when HMRC have looked at your claim and made a new decision. This letter will explain what they’ve decided and why. 

If HMRC decides to give you more tax credits, the money you’re owed will be backdated to the date of the original decision. You’ll either be paid this as a one-off payment, or it will be spread out into smaller payments over the next year. 

To ask for a one-off payment, call the HMRC helpline. You’ll need to explain why you need the payment in one go, for example to pay off debts. If you’re refused, you can ask HMRC to reconsider - then make a complaint if they still refuse.

HMRC tax credits helpline
Telephone: 0345 300 3900
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. Saturday 8am to 4pm
Textphone: 0345 300 3909

Calls cost up to 12p a minute from landlines and 45p a minute from mobiles. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract. 

If HMRC decides to reduce the amount of tax credits you get, the overpayment will be backdated to the date of the original decision. Read our advice on paying a tax credit overpayment

Appealing to an independent tribunal

If HMRC doesn’t agree to change the decision, you can take your challenge to an independent tribunal. The mandatory reconsideration notice will include information on how to appeal. 

Read more about appealing a tax credit decision at a tribunal.

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