Challenging a Child Benefit decision - mandatory reconsideration

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

You should ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to look at your claim again if you think a decision about your Child Benefit is wrong.

Asking them to change the decision is called a 'mandatory reconsideration'. It's free to do and you don't need a solicitor or any other legal help.

Check you're entitled to Child Benefit before asking for mandatory reconsideration. If you're not entitled, it won't be worth it as HMRC won't change their decision.

You're likely to get the decision changed if, for example:

  • you've been refused Child Benefit but can prove you're entitled to it

  • HMRC thinks you've been overpaid but you can prove you were paid the right amount

  • HMRC want you to repay an overpayment - but the overpayment wasn't your fault

You have 1 month from the date of the decision to ask for mandatory reconsideration. You'll find the date at the top of your decision letter. You can still ask for a reconsideration after the deadline, as long as it's within 13 months of the decision. You'll need a good reason - for example, because you'd spent some time in hospital.

Check you have evidence

HMRC will usually only change a decision if you have evidence to prove it was wrong.

For example:

  • your child’s birth certificate - for example if you claimed before you were able to register the birth

  • bank statements or receipts to prove you spend enough money on your child's needs if they don't live with you

  • evidence from your child's school or doctors that shows your address as the child's address

  • travel tickets that show you weren't away from the country for too long

  • a letter from your child's school or college to show they are still in full-time education

  • payslips that show you’re working in the UK - if you need to show you have a right to reside

Proving you reported a change in circumstance

HMRC might have stopped your benefit or think you've been overpaid if they missed a change you reported.

If you reported the change through your Government Gateway account, you could send HMRC a screenshot or print out of the reported change - it should still be visible in your account.

If you wrote to HMRC to report the change, send copies of the letter and proof of postage, if you have it.

If you called HMRC to report the change, you can ask for an audio or written copy of the call on GOV.UK. This is called a 'subject access request'. It can take 6 to 8 weeks for a subject access request to come through, so don't wait for it. Send the letter asking for the mandatory reconsideration and say that you've made a subject access request and will send the evidence when you have it.

If it's taking time to get your evidence together, don't delay sending your mandatory reconsideration. Send any evidence you find later and get proof of postage.

Write to HMRC

It's best to send a letter to HMRC to ask for a mandatory reconsideration so you have everything in writing.

In your letter, explain why you disagree with their decision and give facts and examples to support your reasons.

If your decision letter from HMRC includes the reasons for their decision, make it clear in your letter which ones you disagree with and why. If your decision letter doesn't include a statement of reasons, call HMRC and ask for a 'written statement of reasons' - you'll get more time for your mandatory reconsideration.

Add your phone number, email or address so that HMRC can contact you if they have any questions. Explain if you'll have any problems getting to the phone, for example because it's difficult for you to move around.

You can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice to write your letter. Try to get in touch straight away - you might have to wait for an appointment.

Send your letter to the address on your Child Benefit decision letter. It's a good idea to get proof of postage in case you need it later.

If the 1-month deadline is near or has passed

If it's just a few days until the 1-month deadline, you should call HMRC and ask for the mandatory reconsideration over the phone. You can call them from your local Citizens Advice - an adviser can help you.

You should then send a letter to HMRC that says:

  • the date and time of the call

  • the name of the person you spoke to

  • what was agreed on the call

HMRC - Child Benefit Office

Telephone: 0300 200 3100

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0300 200 3100

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm 

Your call is likely to be free of charge if you have a phone deal that includes free calls to landlines - find out more about calling 030 numbers.

If you've missed the 1-month deadline

You can still ask for a mandatory reconsideration, as long as it's within 13 months of the decision.

You'll need to give a good reason why you couldn't ask within 1 month. For example, because you'd spent some time in hospital.

When you write your letter to HMRC, include the reasons why you missed the 1-month deadline.

HMRC 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.

If you got the decision letter more than 13 months ago

HMRC might change the decision if they made a mistake – known as an 'official error'. For example, if they wrongly recorded your change of circumstance.

You'll need to write to HMRC to explain why you think they made an official error - send your letter to the address on the decision letter. Write 'Request for official error revision' at the top of your letter and include:

Send it to the address on the decision letter.

Getting your mandatory reconsideration decision

HMRC will contact you if they need more information or evidence.

You'll usually need to send any further evidence within 1 month of the date of the phone call or letter. If it will be hard for you to do this, you should tell HMRC when they contact you. They might then extend the deadline.

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

You might have to wait about 3 weeks before you get your letter - if it hasn't arrived after 1 month, call HMRC to check it's being looked at. You can make a complaint if it's taking months to come through.

If HMRC change their decision, your payments will be backdated.

If the decision was about a new claim, they’ll backdate your Child Benefit to the date you made the claim.

If the decision was about an ongoing claim, they’ll backdate your Child Benefit to the date it was stopped or reduced.

Extra help you can get while you're waiting for mandatory reconsideration

You might be able to get other help with your living costs while you're waiting for your Child Benefit decision - for example to help pay for food or school costs.

Check what help you can get.

Appealing to an independent tribunal

If HMRC won't change their decision you can appeal a Child Benefit decision at an independent tribunal.