How do I complain about tax credits?

Updated on 27 June 2018

Sometimes the only way to sort out any problems you are having with your tax credits claim is to make a formal complaint. We outline the various ways you can do this.

The Government is gradually introducing universal credit, a new benefit which will eventually replace tax credits, and some other social security benefits. Universal credit is being introduced geographically and in areas where the full (digital) service is available, it may no longer be possible to make a new claim for tax credits. Existing tax credit claimants are expected to be moved across to universal credit between 2019 and 2023. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section.

You may want to do this if, for example, the advice you have had from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) staff has been poor or misleading, mistakes have been made, there have been long delays, or you are just not happy with the service you have received.

A lot of tax credits complaints are about having to pay back an overpayment. There are other ways you can challenge a decision about an overpayment, such as by appealing or disputing.

Do HMRC have a code of conduct?

HMRC have a charter (‘Your Charter’), which sets out not only a claimant’s rights and obligations, but also what you can expect from HMRC staff. You can see the Charter in full on the GOV.UK website. This might be a useful starting point when writing your complaint letter, especially if you can show that HMRC have not met their promised standards.

Back to the top

What should I do if I want to complain?

Making a complaint is a formal process and has a number of stages.

You can ask to speak to a team leader or manager to start with; this can sometimes resolve the situation. If this does not resolve your problem then you will need to start the complaints process by sending HMRC a Tier 1 complaint.

Back to the top

How do I make a formal complaint? (Tier 1 complaint)

A formal letter of complaint should be sent to the Complaints Manager at the Tax Credits Office. You should write ‘Complaint’ at the top of the letter and make sure you keep a copy of your letter. This is your Tier 1 complaint.

Although it is best to put your complaint in writing, you can ring the Tax Credit Helpline instead. If you do this, make sure you say you are making a formal complaint. You should also make a note of the date, time and details of your phone call in case you need to refer to it again.

Your complaint will be given to a caseworker to investigate. You should be given the name and contact details of your caseworker. They should also make attempts to keep in touch with you until your complaint is resolved or it moves on to the next stage.

HMRC say that most people should normally be contacted about their complaint within 15 days of it being received at the Tax Credits Office.

Back to the top

What happens if I am still not happy? (Tier 2 complaint)

If you are unhappy with the response from the caseworker, you can make a Tier 2 complaint by asking for a senior officer at the Customer Support Unit to review your complaint. Again, it is best to ask for this in writing, but it can be done by phone.

This is the second tier of the formal complaints process. The response you get at this stage is the end of HMRC’s internal complaints procedures.

Back to the top

How do I make a complaint to the Adjudicator’s Office? (Tier 3 complaint)

If you are unhappy with HMRC’s final response, you can make a Tier 3 complaint by asking the Adjudicator’s Office to investigate your complaint.

You must contact the Adjudicator’s Office within six months of HMRC’s final response.

To make a complaint to the Adjudicator’s Office you should write to them including:

  • details of your complaint and your reasons for complaining
  • a copy of the final decision letter from HMRC (Tier 2 response).

You can write to the Adjudicator at:

The Adjudicator's Office
PO Box 10280

You can telephone them on 0300 057 1111. You can find more information on the Adjudicator’s Office website.

Back to the top

Can I refer my complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman?

In most cases, you can only make a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman once you have had a response about your complaint from the Adjudicator’s Office.

You cannot go directly to them yourself; you must ask your local MP to make the complaint on your behalf.

You can download a form from the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s website that may be used to send complaints to your MP. You should normally make your complaint within 12 months of getting a responsefrom the Adjudicator’s Office.

Back to the top

What can I expect as a result of a complaint?

Any of the following outcomes could apply in your case:

  • an apology from HMRC
  • an explanation of what went wrong
  • mistakes corrected (and any money due paid)
  • payment of costs (for example, postage, phone calls, travel expenses)
  • a payment for anxiety and distress that came about as a result of HMRC errors or delays – these usually range from £25 to £500
  • HMRC saying you do not have to pay back an overpayment.

Back to the top

More information

This page gives a brief overview of the complaints process for tax credits. For more detailed information visit our website for advisers and the following pages:

Tax Credits: making a complaint to HMRC about your tax credit claim on our website for advisers.

More information about the Tax Credits Office's complaints procedures on the HMRC website.

More information about making a complaint to the Adjudicator’s Office on the Adjudicator's Office website.

More information about making a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website.

Back to the top