If you’ve tried your best and can’t make any sense of the Tax Credit Office’s overpayment decision, I suggest you keep your options open. You therefore need to:
- Appeal the decision reducing your award, in case this is the thing that’s wrong
- Complain about the decision, in case they were right to reduce the
award but it was their fault that the overpayment happened. To jump
straight to information about complaining, click here.
procedure for appealing against tax credit decisions has changed.
If the decision is dated 6th April 2014 or later you must use the
new procedure, which is explained on this page.
I have also included the old procedure in case the decision you are appealing about was dated before 6th April 2014
In the old procedure you sent your appeal to the Tax Credit Office (TCO) - they looked at your case, and if they weren't willing to change the decision they had to pass the appeal on to the Tribunal Service, who would arrange to hear the appeal.
But now it works like this:
- you cannot appeal without first asking the Tax Credit Office to look
again at your case: this is called asking for a mandatory
- If the Tax Credit Office does not change its mind, you then have to
send in your appeal, but you have to send it direct to the Tribunal
Service, not to the Tax Credit Office.
Stage 1: Ask the Tax Credit Office for a mandatory reconsideration
To request a mandatory reconsideration, you should use the form WTC/AP, which is available from gov.uk here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/332699/wtc_ap.pdf
When you come to give your reasons for appealing make it simple and clear. DO tell them why you think their decisions are wrong.
- REMEMBER that you are appealing against their decision to reduce your tax credit entitlement, not against their decision to ask for the money back (because that is not appealable).
- DON’T write lots of stuff about how the decision has made it hard for you: sadly, it’s not relevant
- TRY and keep a copy of the form: it may make things easier later.
Make sure your request for a mandatory reconsideration reaches the
Tax Credit Office by the deadline. This deadline is 30 days (not a
calendar month) from the date the decision was sent to you.
If you miss this deadline, the Tax Credit Office may accept your appeal, provided it is less than 13 months since the decision was made, and their are good reasons for the delay. The longer the delay is, the better the reasons will have to be.
Stage 2: Wait for the Tax Credit Office Plus to look at your request
How long will this take? Unfortunately the law just says that they must do this 'as soon as is reasonably practicable'.
may write to you asking you to give further reasons and evidence
for your case. If you want to respond and have more evidence by
all means give it to them, but don’t feel obliged to. Don’t agree
to settle if you haven’t got what you want!
If you don't agree to settle, or don't provide documents they ask for, they have to send you a response to your reconsideration request, which then gives you the right to take your appeal to an independent tribunal.
Remember that even if the Tax Credit Office thinks that you must give it written evidence of something for it to change its mind, a tribunal might not agree.
When the Tax Credit Office has finished its work it will write to you to tell you what it has decided. It could:
- Change its decision to one you agree with;
- Leave its previous decision unchanged;
- Change its decision to one you are partly happy with, but partly disagree with.
Unless the Tax Credit Office changes its decision to one entirely in
your favour, you will now need to make your appeal.
Stage 3: Appealing to Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service
You now need to appeal directly to Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service, or the Tribunal Service for short.
- You should use the form SSCS5 which you can find here:http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/sscs005-eng.pdf
- Where it asks for your 'grounds for appeal' you could say 'see attached letter' and include a copy of your letter to the Tax Credit Office, if you have kept one. If you haven't, make sure you include all the reasons you put in your previous letter.
- Send the form off to the Tribunal Service at the address they give you, together with your letter to the Jobcentre Plus (if you've referred to it) and one of the copies of the reconsideration letter that the Jobcentre Plus sent to you.
|At Section 6 of the appeal form it asks whether you want to attend a hearing of your case: you generally have better chance of success if you attend your hearing|
|Make sure your appeal form reaches the Tribunal Service by the deadline. This deadline is one month from the date the Tax Credit Office sends you its response to your request for a reconsideration . So if the date on the Tax Credit Office letter is 1st May you should make sure your appeal reaches them before 1st June. Sometimes your request can be accepted even though it was late. Click here for more information about this.|
When the Tribunal Service receives your appeal it will ask the Tax Credit Office for all the papers relating to the case. At some point a copy of these papers will be sent to you. This is called your appeal bundle.
|Don’t lose your appeal bundle. Don’t get the pages out of order.|
Stage 4: Prepare for the appeal hearing, wait for an appeal date, and attend the hearing
This is a special subject in its own right, and so deserves its own set of pages: click here to be taken to them…
Old rules: decisions made before 6th April 2014
Stage 1: Appeal
The best way is to complete an official Tax Credit Office appeal form. You can find it at www.hmrc.gov.uk/leaflets/wtc_ap.pdf (you’ll need to scroll down through lots of notes before you actually get to the form itself!).
When you come to give your reasons for appealing (either on the form or in the letter) make it simple and clear.
Make sure your appeal reaches the Tax Credit Office by the deadline. This deadline is one month from the date the decision was sent to you. So if the date on the Tax Credit Office is 10th March you should make sure your appeal by 10th April. Sometimes your appeal can be accepted even though it was late.
|Remember that the one month deadline is one month from when they told you your award was to be reduced, not one month from when you are first told you have been overpaid. These might be the same, but they might not, so make sure you are not caught out by this.|
Stage 2: Wait for the Tax Credit Office to look at your appeal
This can be a long wait. It can be weeks or months depending on the workload at the Tax Credit Office. Sometimes when the Tax Credit Office looks at your appeal it decides that it has made a mistake and reverses its previous decision: hurray! Unfortunately this is unusual.
They may write to you asking you to give further reasons and evidence for your case. If you want to respond and have more evidence by all means give it to them, but don’t feel obliged to. Don’t agree to settle if you haven’t got what you want! They may say that if you don’t settle with them the case will be passed to the Tribunal Service: fine! That’s what you want to happen.
The procedure should be as follows:
- You write to the Tax Credit Office making clear in the letter that you are making a formal complaint, and explaining why you think the overpayment is their fault;
- If they do not agree with you, you have the right to write to them again, asking to make a ‘2nd Tier’ complaint.
- If they still do not accept your arguments, you have the right to ask an independent organisation called the Office of the Adjudicator to look at the matter.
- If the Adjudicator does not accept your arguments, this is probably the end of the road, although you do still have the right to ask your MP to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
In practice this process can be incredibly slow and frustrating. The Tax Credit Office may not always acknowledge your letters so you may have to write additional letters chasing them. If they persist in not progressing your complaint write to the Adjudicator anyway, as (in my experience) this often prompts them into action.
In the meantime the Tax Credit Office’s debt collecting office may well ask you to pay the money back: you should write to them saying the overpayment is in dispute and ask for the matter to be put on hold until this is resolved.