Benefit overpayments

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

You might have been contacted by your benefit office because you've been paid too much.

An overpayment can happen for many reasons, for example because:

  • the benefit office made a mistake

  • you didn’t know you had to tell the benefit office about a change of circumstances that meant you were entitled to less benefit or should stop getting a benefit

If you've received an overpayment of benefit it doesn't always mean that you'll be suspected or be guilty of benefit fraud if you were unaware of what you were doing. However, the benefit office might take action to recover the overpayment.

Coronavirus – if your repayments for a benefit overpayment were temporarily stopped

Your repayments will start again after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) temporarily stopped them because of coronavirus.

The DWP will write to you to tell you when your repayments will automatically restart if:

  • you make repayments by Direct Debit

  • your repayments are taken from your benefits or earnings

They’ll either write you a letter or add a journal entry if you get Universal Credit.

If you normally make repayments yourself, for example by a bank standing order, you should contact your bank and start them again.

If you’re struggling to pay your essential living costs and can’t afford your repayments, contact the DWP’s Debt Management contact centre.

DWP - Debt Management contact centre

Telephone: 0800 916 0647

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 916 0651

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Calling from abroad: +44 (0)161 904 1233

Monday to Friday, 8am to 7.30pm

Saturday, 9am to 4pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

Civil penalties for causing an overpayment

In some cases, you might have to pay a civil penalty if you do something which causes an overpayment. This can happen if, for example, you give wrong information or you keep quiet about something which means you get more money than you're supposed to. You can appeal against a decision to impose a civil penalty.

Benefit fraud and overpayments

If you're found guilty of committing benefit fraud it's likely that you've also been overpaid a benefit. The benefit office might take action to recover the overpayment in addition to prosecuting you for fraud.

What to do if you have been told you have been overpaid benefit

The benefit office should write to you to give reasons why you've been overpaid a benefit. If you don’t get full written reasons you should ask for them.

You can also contact the benefit office and ask them to explain their decision and to tell them any information that you think will show you haven’t been overpaid a benefit. This might sort out the problem.

If it doesn’t, you can dispute the overpayment if you don’t agree with it. You should only do this if you can show evidence to prove why you think you haven’t been overpaid a benefit.

If you’ve been told you've been overpaid a benefit and you're not sure whether this is correct, you should contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you've also been accused of benefit fraud, the adviser can give you advice about what to do.

Housing benefit and Council Tax Reduction

If you want to dispute a Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction overpayment, you'll need to contact your local authority. You can find out who your local authority is on GOV.UK.

Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit

To dispute an overpayment of tax credits or Child Benefit, contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on GOV.UK.

Next steps

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Page last reviewed on 31 October 2019