Please read this page first!
NOTE: if you have a Tax Credit court case pending against you, see Stopping Court Cases for emergency steps to get the court case stopped!
Please be aware that Disputes and Appeals are very different processes. You can only Appeal if you have what’s called an ‘entitlement issue’. See this page for The Difference Between Disputes And Appeals.
Since April 2013 HMRC have introduced a 3 month time limit on starting a dispute. This means you are expected to start the dispute within 3 months of being notified of the 'decision' that results in an overpayment.
However, in practice there can be problems in doing so, including serious ill-health of the victim / claimants delaying starting a dispute and not being notified of the overpayment by HMRC until more than 3 months has elapsed since the 'decision' was made.
If this is an issue in your case, please start the dispute anyway, and if the '3 month' issue comes up, please argue for 'discretion' explaining what caused the delays. (Please note that if the overpayment was due to clear 'official error' that you could not be expected to correct, the time limit is up to 5 years, so if Offical Error is a cause please do raise this specifically using the phrase 'official error').
The following guide describes the Dispute process only, because the majority of overpayments can only be dealt with through the dispute process.
Note that there is not actually a very well defined route through this process. Sometimes you may be bounced back and forth, out of order. but during that time they cannot (read "should not"; but you can get it stopped if they try) recover money, add fees or summon you to court. Although this guide seems long, you do not have to do everything at once. Most of it is waiting for one stage to finish before another one can start. If you experience demands to repay during disputing please see this page: Harassment.
Our guide is long because I want people to have as much information as possible, but it is broken down into sections that you should only need to use one at a time. So please don't skim read, thinking you have to read all the sections at once. Instead focus on understanding the stage you are at and what you need to do currently.
The guide has been updated since HMRC moved away from the previous 'reasonableness test' to the current 'responsibilities test'
A couple of tips for you:
Now please work your way through our 6-step dispute guide using the tabs at the top of this page.
For reference, the HMRC internal manual on how they are supposed to process a dispute can be found here, but we have designed our guide so that it is not essential for you to try to read and understand the HMRC manual.