Challenging a benefit or tax credit decision - asking for a reconsideration
If you don't agree with the outcome of a decision made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about your claim, you may want to challenge it.
To do this, you may first need to ask the DWP or HMRC to look at their decision again. This is called asking for a mandatory reconsideration.
This page tells you more about how to ask for a reconsideration of your benefit decision.
What is a mandatory reconsideration?
A mandatory reconsideration means that you ask the DWP or HMRC to look at the decision about your benefit claim again. If you think the decision is wrong, you can ask for it to be looked at again for any reason.
You can ask for a reconsideration when you want to challenge:
- a decision made on a new claim, or
- a decision made to change your claim
- a decision made when you asked to change the claim.
A decision maker will look at the decision again and decide whether to change it or keep it the same. You will not be able to appeal against the decision until you know the outcome of the reconsideration.
Time limits for asking for a reconsideration
The decision notice must tell you the time limit for asking for the decision to be looked at again.
Time limits for benefits paid by the DWP
For benefits paid by the DWP, you must ask for a reconsideration within one month of the date the decision was sent to you. This date will be written on the decision notice.
Time limits for benefits paid by HMRC
Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance are paid by HMRC. You must ask for a reconsideration within one month of the date the decision was sent to you. The date will be written on the decision notice.
Time limits for tax credits paid by HMRC
For tax credits paid by HMRC, you must ask for a reconsideration within 30 days of the date of the decision. The date will be written on the decision notice.
It can be difficult to challenge a decision after the time limit has passed. It's important to respond within one month of the date the decision was sent to you if you're in any doubt. You can try to challenge the decision after the deadline but your request might be refused.
When the time limit can be extended
The decison letter should contain a written statement of reasons telling you why the decision has been made. If you don't receive this, you have the right to ask for a statement. The time limit for asking for a reconsideration will be longer if you have asked for a written statement of reasons:
- if the statement is sent to you within the month, you will have one month and 14 days from the date the decision was sent to challenge it
- if the statement is sent more than one month after the decision was sent, you have 14 days from the date the statement was sent to challenge it.
If you're not sure if the decision includes a written statement of reasons, it's important to ask for a reconsideration as soon as possible so you don’t miss the one-month deadline.
If you miss the time limit
If you miss the time limit to apply for a reconsideration, the DWP or HMRC might still reconsider your application if:
- you apply to the decision maker for an extension to the time limit, explaining why the application is late and why you want an extension. The application must give enough information for the decision maker to identify the decision you want to challenge
- you apply within 13 months of the latest date you should have applied for reconsideration
- the decision maker is satisfied that it is reasonable to extend the time limit
- there are special circumstances that meant you couldn't apply in time.
Also bear in mind that the longer you leave it after the deadline to apply for the reconsideration, the better your reasons for why it is late will have to be.
If you're applying for benefits you're automatically allowed to appeal the decision at a tribunal, as long as you apply for a reconsideration within the 13-month time limit.
If you're applying for tax credits, HMRC might accept your late request but you won't automatically be allowed to appeal.
How to ask for a reconsideration
Check what it says in the letter or email telling you about the decision. It should set out the ways in which you can challenge the decision.
If the decision notice does not include a statement of reasons for the decision, you have a right to ask for one. You must ask for a statement within one calendar month of the date the decision was sent to you.
You must ask the office that made the decision to look at it again. The contact details will be on the decision letter.
You can ask for a reconsideration in writing, by phone or in person. For DWP benefits, there's no special form to fill in, you just need to write a letter. It is usually better to write so you have a record of why you disagree with the decision and proof that you asked for it to be looked at again. However, if you're getting close to the deadline, it's best to phone first and then confirm your phone call in writing.
For HMRC benefits and tax credits, there are forms you can use to ask for a reconsideration, or you can write a letter or phone if you prefer. The forms are available in factsheets on the HMRC website:
- for Child Benefit or Guardian's Allowance at www.hmrc.gov.uk , or
- for tax credits at www.hmrc.gov.uk .
Keep a copy of your letter or form and note the date you sent it. In your letter, explain why you think the decision is wrong and ask for it to be looked at again. Make sure you send copies of any further evidence you’ve got since you made your claim if it will help your case.
What happens when the decision maker reconsiders the decision?
Usually a different decision maker will look at the decision again. If it looks likely that based on the evidence they have, the decision is unlikely to change in your favour, the decision maker should phone you to discuss this. They should ask you whether there is any further evidence you can give, or whether you can explain anything that is unclear about the claim.
If the decision maker needs to discuss your claim with you, they should try to call you at least twice on the same day. It is important when you ask for a reconsideration that you give a phone number where you can easily be reached.
The decision maker should make more effort to contact you if you are vulnerable and try to phone you several times if they don't manage to speak to you straightaway. Make it clear if there is a reason that may make it difficult for you to answer the phone. For example:
- you take medication that makes you drowsy
- you have mobility problems and it takes a long time to reach the phone
- you have mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, which mean you may not feel able to answer the call.
If the decision maker can’t contact you they will make their decision based on the information they already have.
You must send any further evidence within one month from the date of the telephone conversation with the decision maker. The decision maker will wait to receive it before they continue looking at the decision. They may give you more time if it will be difficult to get the extra information. You must explain why you need more time before the time limit for asking for a reconsideration is up.
If you don’t return any evidence within the deadline you’ve agreed with the decision maker, they will make their decision without it.
How long will a reconsideration take?
There is no limit on the amount of time it will take the DWP or HMRC to reconsider the decision. The government has said that, in a straightforward case where no additional information is needed, it should take around 14 days. But it could take longer than this. If you think that the delay is unreasonable in your case, you could try making a complaint.
What happens when the decision has been reconsidered?
When the decision has been looked at again it will either remain the same or be changed by revision. Revision means that if the decision is changed, you will get any backdated benefit you're owed to the date of the original decision.
It's possible for the revision to result in your benefits being reduced. If you disagree with a revision made after a reconsideration, you can appeal to a First-Tier tribunal.
The DWP or HMRC will send you two Mandatory Reconsideration Notices to notify you of the outcome of the reconsideration. One copy is for you and the other is to send to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) if you want to make an appeal. You won’t be able to appeal without a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice.
Details of your appeal rights should be included in the letter.