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If you don't agree with a benefit decision, you can challenge it.

To do this, you need to ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to look at their decision again. This is called asking for a 'mandatory reconsideration'. You usually have to ask for mandatory reconsideration and get a decision before you can appeal to a tribunal.

If the decision was about Housing Benefit, there are different rules. Check how to challenge a Housing Benefit decision.

If the decision was about Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you might not have to ask for mandatory reconsideration. Check how to challenge an ESA decision.

Check if you can ask for mandatory reconsideration

You can ask for mandatory reconsideration for a decision about a new claim or an existing claim. This includes if you ask the DWP or HMRC to change your award and they refuse.

You can challenge a decision to refuse or stop your benefit - or you can challenge the amount they say you should get.

If you’re getting a benefit but you want to challenge the amount

The DWP or HMRC will look at your whole benefit claim again. This means they might decide you should get less benefit or you can’t get the benefit at all. If you’re not sure whether to challenge a decision, get help from an adviser before you ask for mandatory reconsideration.

Check how long you have to ask for a mandatory reconsideration

Your benefit decision letter must tell you how long you have to ask for the decision to be looked at again. If you’re claiming Universal Credit, you might get a message in your online account instead of a letter.

For most benefits, you should ask within 1 month from the date the original decision was sent to you. For tax credits, you should ask within 30 days of the date of the decision.

If you don’t ask for mandatory reconsideration in time

It's still worth asking for mandatory reconsideration. Try to get it to the DWP or HMRC within 13 months of the date they sent you their decision.

You'll need to give a good reason for why you didn’t ask for mandatory reconsideration in time. For example, because you'd spent some time in hospital. The longer it is since the deadline, the stronger your reason will need to be.

You'll need to write to the DWP or HMRC to explain why you didn’t ask on time. You can send a letter to the address on your decision letter or write a message in your Universal Credit online account, if the decision is about Universal Credit.

The DWP or HMRC can refuse your application if it's late, but as long as you applied within 13 months you can usually still appeal that decision at a tribunal.

If you got a decision more than 13 months ago

The DWP or HMRC will only change the decision if you can show they made a mistake. This includes if they:

  • got the law wrong - for example, if they said you weren’t allowed to claim benefits when you were
  • made a mistake when calculating your benefit - for example, if they didn't include a premium you're entitled to
  • overlooked a piece of evidence you sent them - for example, that showed you had less than £16,000 in savings

The DWP or HMRC won’t usually change their decision for example if you told them the wrong information or didn’t send them documents they needed.

You'll need to write to the benefit office to explain why you think they made a mistake. You can send a letter to the address on your decision letter or write a message in your Universal Credit online account, if you have one.

Write 'Request for revision' at the top of your letter or in your message and include:

Getting more details about the decision

Your decision letter might include a ‘statement of reasons’ that explains why the decision was made. If you’re claiming Universal Credit, the statement of reasons will be in your online account.

You can ask the DWP or HMRC to send you a statement of reasons if you don’t think you’ve been given one.

If they agree to send you a statement of reasons, the DWP or HMRC can extend your 1 month deadline to ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

They might refuse to send you a statement of reasons if they say you were already given one with your decision letter. This means your 1 month deadline won’t be extended.

You should ask for your mandatory reconsideration before the deadline in your decision letter - even if you’ve asked for a statement of reasons and might get an extension. If the deadline isn’t extended and you miss it, it might be harder to get a mandatory reconsideration.

Asking for a mandatory reconsideration

Check what it says in the letter, email or message telling you about the decision. It should tell you how you can challenge the decision.

The DWP or HMRC might call you to discuss your mandatory reconsideration, so give them a phone number you’ll be able to answer. Tell them if you find it difficult to answer the phone - for example if you have anxiety or depression.

Tell the DWP or HMRC if you need to collect more evidence - for example payslips or a letter from your GP. You should send extra evidence within 1 month of asking for mandatory reconsideration. Tell the DWP or HMRC if you need more time.

There's no limit on the amount of time it will take the DWP or HMRC to reconsider the decision.

If you think that the delay is unreasonable in your case, you could try to make a complaint.

If you’re challenging a decision by the DWP

To ask for a mandatory reconsideration you can:

  • write a message in your Universal Credit online account, if you have one
  • use the CRMR1 mandatory reconsideration request form on GOV.UK - you'll need to download it and fill it in, then print it off and send it by post
  • write a letter or call the DWP - check the contact details on your decision letter

It's usually better to use your Universal Credit account, fill in the form or write a letter. This means you can keep a record of why you disagree with the decision and prove you asked for it to be looked at again.

If you're getting close to the deadline, it's best to call first and then confirm what you talked about in writing.

If you’re challenging a decision by HMRC

There are forms you can use to ask for a mandatory reconsideration:

If it’s a decision about Child Benefit or Guardian’s Allowance decision, you can print form CH24A from GOV.UK.

If it’s a decision about Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits, you can start your challenge online or print form WTC/AP from GOV.UK.

You can write a letter or call HMRC if you prefer - the contact details should be on your decision letter. You should explain why you think the decision is wrong and ask for it to be looked at again.

Keep a copy if you use a form or write a letter - and make a note of the date you send it. Make sure you send copies of any further evidence you’ve got since you made your claim, if it will help your case.

Check what happens when the decision is reconsidered

If the DWP or HMRC change their decision, this is called ‘revision’. You'll get any benefit you're owed backdated to the date of the original decision.

If the DWP or HMRC don’t change their decision, or you disagree about how they’ve changed it, you can usually appeal to a tribunal.

The DWP or HMRC will send you 2 copies of a letter to tell you the outcome of the reconsideration - this is called a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration Notice’. 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.

The Mandatory Reconsideration Notice will say if you can appeal. You can't appeal against some things including:

  • when and how to pay your benefit
  • the decision to suspend your claim while the DWP or HMRC check if you’re eligible for benefits

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