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If you are unhappy with the outcome of a benefit decision, you
usually have the right to challenge it.
How this happens depends on whether the benefit is administered
by the Department for
Work and Pensions (DWP) or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs
(HMRC), or by
the local authority.
If you're unhappy with the way a decision was handled, rather
than the outcome of the decision, you might instead want to make a complaint.
If you are unhappy with a decision made by the DWP or HMRC, you
usually have a right to challenge that decision. For example, you
might want to challenge a decision because you were refused benefit
or because you think you should have received higher amounts. Your
decision letter should make clear what rights you have.
There are two possible stages when challenging a decision:
You cannot ask for an appeal until after you have had
a mandatory reconsideration.
Making a mandatory
For DWP benefits, you can request this over the telephone or in
writing. For HMRC benefits you must make a request in writing.
In either case, you normally need to do this within one month of
the date of the decision letter, although a late request may be
accepted in certain limited circumstances. This can include where
an old decision was based on error of law.
As part of having a decision reconsidered you can volunteer, or
you may be asked to give, further information. Another decision
maker will then have a fresh look at the case. When your
reconsideration request has been decided, they will send you two
Mandatory Reconsideration Notices in the post.
What if my decision letter doesn't explain any reasons for their
If the decision letter doesn't include reasons for the decision,
you can ask for a written statement of reasons. You must ask for
this within one month of the date on the decision letter.
If the written statement of reasons is provided within that
month, then the one-month time limit for requesting a mandatory
reconsideration is extended by 14 days. If it is provided outside
of the month time limit, you have 14 days from the date it is
Warning! If reasons for the decision were
included in the original decision letter then the time limit to ask
for a reconsideration will not be extended. This remains the case
even if you did not realise that reasons were included because they
were so brief and general.
Because of this, we recommend that you always ask for a
reconsideration within the one-month time scale, unless you have
spoken to the DWP/HMRC and they have confirmed that the time limit
will be extended because they are sending a written statement of
reasons to you.
Asking for an appeal
If your request for a mandatory reconsideration results in the
decision remaining unchanged or if they change it but don't give
you everything you were looking for, you have the right to ask for
an appeal. But remember, you can't ask for an appeal unless you
have asked for a mandatory
How do I appeal?
Your appeal request must be made in writing, and you will need
to explain why you think the decision you are appealing against is
wrong. It must include a copy of the Mandatory Reconsideration
Notice that was sent to you.
You can appeal using an appeal form. If you are in England,
Scotland or Wales then get
the form to appeal a DWP decision and
the form to appeal a HMRC decision. For some benefits, such as
Personal Independence Payment
(PIP), it is possible to make an
appeal online. You can download appeal forms in Northern
You must send your appeal request directly to the Courts and
Tribunal Service (the Appeals Service in Northern Ireland), and it
must be received by them within one month of the date on the
reconsideration notice. If you miss this deadline, seek advice
about making a late appeal.
An oral hearing or a paper
One of the questions on the appeal form is whether you would
like a 'paper hearing' (where you don't go to the meeting and the
tribunal look at the papers and make a new decision), or an oral
hearing (where you are invited to attend a meeting to discuss your
appeal and a new decision is made).
It is always best to ask for an oral hearing. Statistically,
oral hearings are more successful than paper hearings. If you can,
get specialist advice to help you prepare your case. To find a
specialist adviser who can help you appeal, use the advicelocal search tool.
The hearing is meant to be fairly informal, and you will have
the opportunity to explain your case. You may find it useful to
make notes before you go to the hearing, with the points you want
to make and the supporting evidence you want to provide. Although
you can go to an appeal by yourself, it is a good idea to see if a
local advice service can provide a free representative to attend
the appeal alongside you and to help you put forward your case.
reconsideration or appeal lead to benefit being
Yes. If you have been awarded a benefit but are unhappy with the
amount, you need to take into account the fact that asking for a
mandatory reconsideration or appeal can sometimes result in benefit
being reduced or lost rather than increased.
If you wish to challenge a decision on a Housing Benefit claim,
you don't necessarily need to ask for a mandatory reconsideration
first. Instead you can appeal immediately to an independent
Tribunal. The choice is yours. You usually have a month within
which to write to the local authority asking for a revision or an
appeal, although this will sometimes be extended if there are
If you wish to challenge a decision on a Council Tax
Discount or a Council Tax Disability
Reduction, you can appeal to the local authority in
question. There is no time limit for this. If your appeal is
refused, you can appeal within two months to the Valuation Tribunal
in England or Valuation Tribunal in Wales and within four months to
the Valuation Appeal Committee in Scotland.
If you are unhappy with a decision about a Council Tax
Reduction, you can ask your local authority to look at the
decision again. You are expected to do this within one month. If
you are not happy with the outcome of this appeal, you can then
appeal within two months to the Valuation Tribunal in England or
In Scotland you can ask your local authority to review their
decision. You must do this within two months. If you are unhappy
with the outcome you can ask for a further review within 42 days by
the Council Tax Reduction Review Panel.
Sometimes you might be unhappy with how your claim for a benefit
has been handled, but it may be an issue where you have no right to
ask for a mandatory reconsideration or appeal.
For instance, you may be unhappy about the length of time it has
taken to deal with your claim, or you may be unhappy about how a
member of staff has talked to you.
In these circumstances you can make a complaint
Making a complaint might result in an explanation of why the
problem occurred, a promise that the problem will be put right, if
possible, or a change in procedure to avoid other people
having to face the same problems. In some circumstances it can also
lead to compensation, for instance if you have suffered a financial
Complaining to the Department for
Work and Pensions (DWP)
Each DWP agency has its own complaints procedure. To complain,
contact the office that dealt with your claim.
If you are not happy with their response, you can ask for your
complaint to be dealt with by a more senior DWP officer. This is
known as a 'tier one' complaint.
If you are still dissatisfied, you can make a 'tier two'
complaint, which is dealt with by a senior DWP manager. If you are
still not satisfied following this, you can complain to the
Independent Case Examiner.
Complaining to HM Revenue and
If you want to complain about how HMRC has dealt with your
Tax Credit, child benefit or guardian's allowance claim, you
should start by writing to the person who has been dealing with
If you are not happy with their response, you can ask that
it be passed to an HMRC customer service adviser. If you are
not happy with the HMRC reply, you can ask the Adjudicator to
look into the matter and recommend appropriate action.
If you are complaining about a housing benefit or Council Tax
issue, you will need to contact the office that has been dealing
with this and ask for details of their complaints procedure. You
may also want to contact your local councillor to ask them to raise
your complaint with council officials.
If you are unhappy with how your complaint is being dealt with,
you may wish to raise this matter with your MP. Complaints
supported by an MP are often dealt with more quickly by these
Your MP can also refer a case to The Parliamentary and Health
Service Ombudsman if they believe that you have experienced an
injustice because of maladministration of your benefit claim.
However, the Ombudsman cannot usually investigate a complaint
unless you have first exhausted that agency's complaints
Whether you want to challenge a benefits decision or complain
about how a benefits claim has been handled, it is a good idea to
try and get help from a local advice service that helps with
You can get details of local advice services in your area by
calling our free helpline. You can
search for local benefits advisers by using the Turn2Us find an