Revisions, appeals & complaints

9 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of a benefit decision, you usually have the right to challenge it.

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.

In this article

Challenging decisions by the DWP or HMRC

If you are unhappy with a decision the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have made, you usually have a right to challenge that decision.

For example, you might want to challenge a decision because they refused you benefit. Or you might 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 reconsideration request

For DWP benefits, you can request this over the telephone or in writing. If writing, you can use form CRMR1 available from the website. For HMRC benefits, you must make a request in writing. You can do this using form WTC/AP available from the website.

In either case, you must normally do this within one month of the date of the decision letter. 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 the process, 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 DWP/HMRC has decided on your reconsideration request, they will send you two Mandatory Reconsideration Notices in the post.

What if my decision letter doesn’t explain any reasons for their decision?

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 you receive the written statement of reasons within that month, then the one-month time limit for requesting a mandatory reconsideration extends by 14 days. If you receive the statement outside of the month time limit, you have 14 days from the date you receive it.

Warning! If the original decision letter included reasons, the time limit to ask for a reconsideration will not extend beyond one month. This remains the case even if you did not realise that the letter included reasons because they were so brief and general.

Because of this, we recommend that you always ask for a reconsideration within the one-month timescale. Only assume you have more time if you have spoken to the DWP/HMRC and they have confirmed that they are sending a written statement of reasons to you and will extend the time limit.

Asking for an appeal

If a mandatory reconsideration results in no change in the decision or you don’t get 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 reconsideration first.

How do I appeal?

You must make your appeal request in writing. 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 you received.

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) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA), it is possible to make an appeal online. You can download appeal forms in Northern Ireland from NI Direct.

You must send your appeal request directly to the Courts and Tribunal Service (the Appeals Service in Northern Ireland). They must receive it within one month of the date on the reconsideration notice. If you miss this deadline, seek advice about making a late appeal.

The charity Advice Now produces free guides on How To Win A DLA Appeal and How To Win A PIP Appeal, both of which are available at

An oral hearing or a paper hearing?

One of the questions on the appeal form is whether you’d like a “paper hearing” or an oral hearing. A paper hearing means you don’t go to the meeting; the tribunal look at the papers and make a new decision. An oral meeting means you can attend a meeting to discuss your appeal.

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 Turn2Us find an adviser tool.

The hearing should 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.

Can a reconsideration or appeal lead to my benefit going down?

Yes. You need to take into account the fact that asking for a mandatory reconsideration or appeal can sometimes result in you losing or getting less benefit, rather than getting an increase.

Challenging decisions by your local authority

Housing Benefit

If you want 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. This will sometimes be extended if there are special circumstances.

Council Tax

If you want 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 the local authority refuses your appeal, you can appeal:

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 must 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 Wales.

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.

Making a complaint

Sometimes you might be unhappy with how the benefit office handled your claim. 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 instead.

Making a complaint might result in an explanation of why the problem occurred. It can lead to a promise to put the problem right, if possible. Or it might prompt 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 loss.

Complaining to the 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 a more senior DWP office to deal with your complaint. This is known as a ‘tier one’ complaint.

If you are still dissatisfied, you can make a ‘tier two’ complaint. A senior DWP manager will deal with this complaint.

If you are still unhappy following this, you can complain to the Independent Case Examiner.

Complaining to HM Revenue and Customs

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 your case.

If you are not happy with their response, you can ask them to pass the complaint onto an HMRC customer service adviser. And if you are not happy with the HMRC reply, you can ask the Adjudicator to look into the matter and recommend appropriate action.

Local authority complaints

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. 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.

Using your MP

If you are unhappy with how your complaint is being dealt with, you may wish to raise this matter with your MP. Government agencies often deal with complaints more quickly if an MP is supporting them.

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 procedure.

Getting local help

Whether you want to appeal or complain about a decision, it is a good idea to try and get help from a local advice service that helps with benefits issues.

Our website has details of local advice services in your area. You can search for local benefits advisers by using the Turn2Us find an adviser tool.