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, Council Tax Reduction or Scottish benefits paid by Social Security Scotland.
If you want to challenge a decision made about a Scottish benefit, you should ask Social Security Scotland to look at it again. You’ll usually need to ask for a 're-determination'. Find out more about challenging a Scottish benefit decision.
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
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 1 month of the date of the decision.
If you missed the 1 month deadline, it's still worth sending your mandatory reconsideration.
For most benefits you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration within 13 months of the date on the decision letter.
For Universal Credit, PIP, new style JSA and new style ESA, you can send it within 13 months of the date on your decision letter.
The DWP can refuse your application if it's late, but as long as you applied within 13 months you can still appeal the decision at a tribunal.
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. Find out more about asking for a mandatory reconsideration.
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 one month time limit can be extended by up to a further 12 months in certain circumstances. If you miss the deadline, you should explain why your appeal is late.
Your appeal will usually be heard by a tribunal and you will have the chance to say why you think the decision is wrong. Find out how to appeal to a tribunal.
If you're too late to ask for reconsideration or appeal against a decision
If you find out the decision on your claim was wrong but you’ve missed the time limit for challenging it, you might be able to ask for the decision to be revised.
If the decision is revised in your favour you will be paid any extra benefit you have missed out on.
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.
You will have to ask for a mandatory reconsideration of your benefit or tax credit decision before you can appeal.
The deadline 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.
If you miss the deadline for a mandatory reconsideration, it's still worth sending it. You’ll need to explain why your application was late - HMRC are more likely to accept it if you have a good reason.
Appealing an HMRC benefit decision
You can appeal to an independent tribunal if you disagree with the mandatory reconsideration decision.
If you’re claiming Child Benefit or Guardian’s Allowance, you can appeal up to 13 months after the mandatory reconsideration decision.
If you’re claiming tax credits, you should try to appeal within 1 month of the mandatory reconsideration decision.
HMRC are more likely to refuse an appeal about a tax credits decision after the 1 month deadline - but you should still try to appeal if you miss this deadline. The appeal might be accepted if you make it within 13 months of the mandatory reconsideration decision.
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.
- More about challenging a DWP benefit decision made on or after 28 October 2013
- More about asking for a mandatory reconsideration