Appealing a tax credits decision at a tribunal
You can appeal to a tribunal if HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) didn’t change their decision when you asked for a mandatory reconsideration.
The tribunal is independent of HMRC and overseen by a judge. The judge will look at your evidence and hear what you have to say. They’ll also look at any evidence from HMRC and then make a decision.
Before you appeal to a tribunal
You must ask HMRC to look at their decision again - called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ - before you can appeal to a tribunal. See challenging a working or child tax credits decision for how to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.
When you should appeal to a tribunal
You should appeal to a tribunal if, after reading the reasons on the ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’, you still think:
- you’ve been paid the wrong amount
- you’ve been wrongly refused tax credits
- your tax credits shouldn’t have been stopped
- you were paid the correct amount and HMRC wrongly thinks you’ve had an overpayment
The mandatory reconsideration notice is the letter from HMRC with ‘About your mandatory reconsideration’ written at the top. You’ll need to send a copy of this notice when you ask for an appeal.
The tribunal could decide to reduce your tax credits even more or increase your overpayment. For example, if your tax credits have stopped and there’s evidence they should have stopped even earlier.
You should be sure you have a good chance of getting your tax credits increased or your overpayment cancelled before you ask for an appeal. If you’re not sure, visit your nearest Citizens Advice for help.
Getting specialist help
You can get help from a Citizens Advice adviser at any point in the appeals process. They can help you:
- fill in the form to ask for an appeal
- understand any documents you’re sent
- reply to any letters from the tribunal or HMRC
- photocopy and post documents
- prepare for the appeal hearing
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) must get your appeal within 1 month of the mandatory reconsideration notice - so allow time for posting. You can find the date at the top of the notice.
If you’ve missed the deadline
If it’s less than 13 months since the date of the mandatory reconsideration notice, you might still be able to appeal. You’ll need to have a good reason for the delay, for example:
- you posted your appeal in time, but it got lost in the post
- someone in your family was seriously ill
- you were abroad - see how long you can be away for and still get tax credits on GOV.UK
The tribunal will extend the time you have to appeal if HMRC agrees you had a good reason. Even if HMRC doesn’t agree, the tribunal will extend the time if they think it was unfair of HMRC not to give you an extension.
You usually won’t be able to get legal aid for a tax credits appeal. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to ask an adviser to help you prepare your appeal.
Filling in the appeal form
To ask for an appeal you’ll need to fill in the appeal form on the HMCTS website - then print and post it. The form guides you through what to include, but if you’re not sure about anything, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you fill in the form.
You can ask for an appeal by writing to HMCTS, but it’s better to use the form as it’s easier to include all the information HMCTS need.
If you ask for an appeal in writing, write ‘Appeal’ at the top of your letter and include:
- your full name
- your National Insurance number
- the date at the top of your mandatory reconsideration notice
HMRC should pass on any evidence you gave them for your mandatory reconsideration to the tribunal service. You don’t need to send it again with your appeal form or letter.
HMCTS will send you a copy of all the evidence they’ve received - called an ‘appeal bundle’. It’s important to check this has all the evidence you gave HMRC. If anything is missing, you should send it to HMCTS - explaining that HMRC failed to send it to HMCTS.
You can send evidence to HMCTS up to 1 month after you get the appeal bundle. If you miss this deadline, explain why when you send the evidence and HMCTS might extend the deadline.
Before sending any extra evidence, you should get advice from a Citizens Advice adviser.
If you want to reopen a cancelled appeal
An appeal can be cancelled - known as ‘struck out’ - if you fail to do something HMCTS asks for, like sending them a certain document. HMCTS will write to warn you that your appeal is in danger of being cancelled - to give you a chance to stop it.
You can ask to have a cancelled appeal looked at again - known as getting an appeal ‘reinstated’. Write to HMCTS and include:
- your full name and address
- your National Insurance number
- the decision you’re appealing
- the date your appeal was cancelled
- why you failed to do something HMCTS asked for
- why you think your appeal should be looked at again
You should write no more than 1 month after HMCTS wrote to tell you about the cancellation. If you need this time extended, explain in your letter why you missed the 1 month deadline.
HMCTS won’t agree to look at your appeal again if:
- they struck out your appeal because you didn’t cooperate with them
- they’ve already told you your appeal won’t be successful
Explaining why you’re appealing
The most important part of the form is ‘Section 5: About your appeal’. In this box you need to give the specific reasons why you disagree with the decision.
Use your decision letter and mandatory reconsideration notice to list each of the statements you disagree with and why. Give facts and examples - and mention the evidence you’ve sent to HMRC to support what you’re saying. You can use the same examples and evidence as for your mandatory reconsideration.
Going to the appeal hearing
Section 6 of the appeals form will ask if you want to be there when the judge considers your appeal - known as an ‘oral hearing’.
It’s always better to go to the hearing, if you can. You’ll have more opportunity to put your case forward and can answer any questions the judge might have.
You can get help with the cost of travelling to the hearing. See the expenses you can claim on GOV.UK.
You can take your representative with you, if you have one. Or you can ask someone to go with you for moral support.
If you ask for the hearing to be done without you - called a ‘paper hearing’ - you’ll miss out on being able to tell the tribunal about your case. You’ll have a much better chance of success if you go to the hearing in person.
Sending the appeal form
Send the completed form to HMCTS by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt - you might need prove when you posted it and when it arrived.
HMCTS Appeals Centre
PO Box 1203
HMCTS will check the form and then ask HMRC for their response within 28 days.
HMCTS will send you:
- a copy of HMRC’s response
- information about what happens next
- details of when and where the hearing will be (if you’ve asked for an oral hearing, rather than a paper one)
You can find out more about what happens at the hearing on GOV.UK.
Reaching an agreement with HMRC before the tribunal
HMRC might contact you to offer a solution to your tax credits problem. You don’t have to agree to it and can decide to still go to the tribunal.
If you do want to accept what HMRC are offering, you must write to HMCTS with details of what you’ve agreed. Your appeal will then be cancelled.
It’s a good idea to get advice, before agreeing a deal with HMRC.
Finding out the tribunal’s decision
You’ll be sent a letter explaining the tribunal’s decision, even if you went to the tribunal.
If you go to the hearing, you’ll usually be told the tribunal’s decision there. If the judge needs longer to decide, they’ll write to tell you their decision.
If you disagree with the tribunal’s decision
You might be able to appeal to an upper tribunal. An adviser can help you decide if you should appeal further and can help you prepare your appeal. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to get an appointment.