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If HMRC says you’ve had a tax credits overpayment

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You might be able to get HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to cancel the overpayment or reduce what you have to pay.

They sometimes make a mistake - you might not have actually been overpaid, or need to pay all the money back.

Check you’ve actually been overpaid

HMRC might think you’ve been overpaid because they’ve got some information wrong. For example, if they think:

  • you live with a partner when you don’t
  • you’re not self-employed when you are
  • you’re earning more than you are

They should say why they think you’ve been overpaid when they write to tell you about the overpayment. If the reason isn’t clear - or you can’t find the overpayment letter - call the tax credits helpline.

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

Make a note of the date and time you call. Also write down the name of the person you spoke to and the HMRC office they work in - for example Preston or Belfast. You might need these details if you challenge the overpayment.

If you think you were paid the right amount

You should tell HMRC you think you were entitled to all of the tax credits you got. To do this, you’ll need to ask them to look at the decision again - known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

See challenging a working or child tax credits decision for how to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

If you’ve been paid too much by mistake

You might not have to pay the money back if HMRC made a mistake. You can ask HMRC to reduce your overpayment if they haven’t:

  • paid you the right amount
  • given you correct advice based on the information you gave them
  • correctly recorded your information and any change of circumstances you told them about
  • confirmed in writing how much tax credits you’ll get within 30 days of you applying or telling them about a change of circumstances
  • put right any mistakes you’ve told them about

If you think HMRC has made a mistake, you should dispute paying back the overpayment.

If HMRC didn’t make a mistake

You can still dispute paying back the overpayment if you couldn’t do everything you were meant to, for example because you were seriously ill.

If you don’t have a reason to dispute paying back the overpayment, you can ask to pay in instalments.

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