If HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have told you to pay back an overpayment, you can dispute having to pay all the money back if:
You also might not have to pay all the money back if you were overpaid because you were late reporting a change in your relationship. You can ask HMRC to take what you should have got if you’d reported the change in time off your overpayment.
If you don’t think you’ve been overpaid, you’ll first need to challenge HMRC’s decision. See challenging a tax credits decision for how to show you were entitled to the tax credits.
The best way to tell HMRC you don’t think you should pay back an overpayment is to fill in a dispute form on GOV.UK. Filling in the form makes it easy to include all of the information HMRC needs - and you save the cost of postage.
Visit your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help with the dispute form.
If you can’t fill in the form online, you can write HMRC a letter. In the letter, explain why you shouldn’t pay back the overpayment and include photocopies of any evidence.
Send it to the address on the letter that told you about the overpayment. If you can’t find the overpayment letter, send it to:
HMRC Tax Credit Office
HMRC will need to get your completed form or letter within 3 months of whichever is the latest:
If you miss the 3 month deadline, HMRC should still accept your form if you had a strong reason for the delay. For example, if you were in hospital for those 3 months.
If they don’t, you can make a complaint to try and get your late form accepted.
It’s a good idea to find out why HMRC thinks you’ve been overpaid. Then when you fill in the dispute form or write your letter, you can clearly explain why you disagree with their reasons.
HMRC will have written to tell you they think you’ve been overpaid and when they want the money back. It might not be clear in the letter why HMRC thinks you’ve been overpaid - so for more details, call the tax credits helpline.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax credits helpline
Telephone: 0345 300 3900
Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0345 300 3900
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.
If you're calling outside of the UK: +44 2890 538 192
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Telephone (Welsh language): 0300 200 1900
Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm
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 03 numbers.
Make a note of the date and time you call. Also write down the name of the person you spoke to and the HMRC office they work in - for example Preston or Belfast. You might need to refer to the call later in your dispute.
HMRC must do certain things to ensure your claim is treated correctly - known as ‘meeting their responsibilities’. You can ask HMRC to reduce your overpayment if they haven’t:
To get the whole overpayment cancelled, you’ll need to have met all of your responsibilities. These are:
Explain in the dispute form or your letter why you think HMRC didn’t meet their responsibilities - and how you met all of yours.
HMRC should cancel the overpayment if you met all of your responsibilities but they didn’t meet all of theirs.
You’ll usually have to pay back some of the overpayment if HMRC thinks you both failed to meet some responsibilities.
If you had a strong reason for not meeting your responsibilities, explain this in the dispute form. For example, if you or a close family member were seriously ill.
If you think HMRC is asking you to pay back too much, you can write to them. In your letter, explain how you met your responsibilities and ask them to reduce the amount.
HMRC Tax Credit Office
Call the tax credits helpline if it’s close to the 3-month dispute deadline - it will be quicker than writing.
You can get the amount you have to pay back reduced if you were late changing from a single to a joint claim, or from a joint to a single claim.
You’ll need to ask HMRC to reduce your overpayment by taking what you should have got from what you were actually paid. This is known as ‘notional offsetting’.
Call the tax credits helpline and ask for your claim to be passed on to the notional offsetting team.
You can also write to the notional offsetting team. Write ‘Request for notional offsetting’ at the top of your letter and include:
Send your letter to:
Customer Service Support Group
The tax credits office
There’s no deadline, so it’s worth asking HMRC to offset the overpayment even if you should have reported the change months ago.
It’s important to explain why you didn’t report the change straight away when you fill in the form. For example, because you were moving out of the home you shared with your partner. You should send any evidence you have to support your reasons. For example, a copy of your new tenancy agreement.
You can call the tax credits helpline and ask to pay back the overpayment in smaller amounts over a longer period of time.
If you would really struggle to pay the money back, you can ask for the amount you have to pay back to be reduced or even cancelled. For example, if you’re seriously ill and won’t be able to return to work.
You’ll need to explain why it would be very difficult to pay the money back. HMRC might ask you to send them proof of why you can’t afford the repayments.
You might still need to start paying HMRC back, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. You’ll get this money back if you get your repayment changed.
You don’t have to pay a large amount in one go, you can ask to pay in small instalments. It’s best to do this rather than not pay anything at all. See paying back a tax credit overpayment for how to deal with these repayments.
You can ask HMRC to look at their decision again, but you’ll need to provide new evidence. For example, if you’ve got a copy of what was said on a phone call to HMRC.
You must do this within 30 days of getting their decision not to change your repayments - unless you have a strong reason for the delay, for example you were seriously ill.
Write to HMRC explaining why you think what you have to pay should be changed - and how the new evidence supports this. Send your letter to the address on the letter that told you HMRC won’t change your repayment. Include photocopies of any new evidence.
It's a good idea to send your form and copies of any evidence by Royal Mail Signed For and keep the receipt - you might need to prove when you posted it and when it arrived.
If you need help writing your letter, contact your nearest Citizens Advice - tell them when the 30-day deadline is.
You can make a complaint about HMRC if they refuse to change your repayment after you’ve sent them new evidence.
You can make a complaint by calling or writing to the office that’s been dealing with your dispute - the contact details will be on the letter that told you HMRC won’t change your repayment.
If you can’t find this letter you can make a complaint on GOV.UK or call the tax credits helpline.
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