How to write a dispute letter

What you need to do


1. Make sure you send it to the right address.

Dispute Team
Tax Credit Office

2. Tell them who the letter is about. Include your name, your partner’s name, your address and both national insurance numbers.

I am writing to you on behalf of myself (Mrs Helen Smith) and my husband (Mr Dale Smith). Our address is 10 The Street, The Town, N1 7ET. Our National Insurance numbers are AB 12 34 45 D (Mrs Smith) and EF 12 34 45 G (Mr Smith).

3. Next you need to tell them what overpayment you are asking them to look at and which year it is from. You should be able to find this information on the letter that HMRC sent you about the overpayment (or if you did not receive one, from your last award notice). If you cannot find it, don’t worry. You can ring the tax credit helpline and ask them which year the overpayment is from. From 6 April 2013 there is a 3 month time limit for disputes. For more information about the time limit for disputes see Appeals and disputes. If you have missed the time limit you should explain here why you missed it.

If you have an overpayment from more than one year, keep each one separate in your letter and follow the steps for each.

We would like to dispute our tax credit overpayment for 2008-2009.

We would like to dispute our tax credit overpayments for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.


Follow steps 4 to 7


Follow steps 4 to 7

4. You now need to tell HMRC why you think you should not pay back the overpayment. Have a look at the responsibilities in this section  I don’t think I should pay the money back: the dispute process. You should look at each one and see if it applies to you. Tell HMRC why you think you met your responsibilities.

I think that we should not have to pay back our overpayment because we met all of our responsibilities.

I rang the helpline straight away when our son left home. This was around October 2007. The lady at the helpline told us she would make this change on our claim.

I rang the helpline in January 2008 when my husband got a pay rise. I told them that his new income was £13,000. We then got lots of papers through the post and I noticed that they had put his income as £1,300 which was wrong. I phoned the helpline straightaway to correct this.

5. Then tell HMRC why you think they did not do the right thing. Have a look at their responsibilities here I don’t think I should pay the money back: the dispute process. You should look at each of these and see if it applies to you. Tell HMRC why you think they did not meet their responsibilities.

I think that HMRC have not met their responsibilities. When I phoned you and told you my son had left home, the lady did not make the change on my award even though I phoned you straight away.

When I told you about the change in my husband’s income, you made a mistake and put the wrong income on the form.

6. Tell HMRC of any evidence you think they should look at. This is very important if you think there might be a phone call where you gave them information or asked them a question.

If you can, tell them when you think the calls were made, but don’t worry if you cannot remember. If you wrote a letter with information, tell them when you think you sent it.

Remember to send copies of any evidence that you have like letters you sent, letters you received, or notes of any phone calls.

I would like you to listen to the phone calls that I made telling you that my son had left home and that my husband had received a pay rise.

I think that the first phone call was made around October 2007 and the second in January 2008.

7. Tell HMRC about any evidence you are sending.

I have sent a copy of the award notice that showed my husband’s income incorrectly.

If you don't know what caused your overpayment

If you do not know the reason for your overpayment, you will find it hard to write a detailed letter. Don’t worry, follow steps 1, 2, 3 and 8 and send your dispute anyway. Normally, the decision you get back will give you some reasons for your overpayment. You can then send another dispute by following the steps for Second disputes.

I have sent a letter asking HMRC not to take the money back, but they say I still have to pay it back. What can I do?

It can be so frustrating and upsetting to be told you still have to pay the money back, especially if you have waited a long time for a reply. But try not to worry, all is not lost yet.

The first thing to do is read the letter you’ve had from HMRC. The letter should contain some important information:

  • A phone number for the person who made the decision
  • The name of the person who made the decision
  • A reason why HMRC think you should still pay the money back.

Sometimes, letters are missing some of this information. If yours is, you can complain (see How to complain - tax credits) and follow the steps below.

The reasons that HMRC give are often confusing and hard to understand. Sometimes they even turn out to be wrong. Once you have read the reason, these are your options:

  1. If you agree with the reason they give, and think that the decision is correct, HMRC will want the money to be paid back. If you are still getting tax credits on the same claim, they will automatically reduce your payments. If HMRC have asked you for the money directly in the past, you should contact HMRC to arrange how to repay the money (see Repaying the overpayment). You should not ignore the overpayment as it could end up going to court.
  2. If you do not agree with the reason they give, then have a look at the section on Second disputes . This is very important if you did not know the reason for your overpayment when you sent your first dispute. You can now write a longer second dispute and explain why you think their decision is wrong. They will continue to ask you for the money or take it from your current tax credits claim while you do this.
  3. If you are unhappy with how HMRC have responded to you, then you can make a complaint (see How to complain - tax credits ). You can send a complaint as well as a second dispute if you want to.

Share this content Email, print or share via social media