Ask CPAG Online - What are the time limits?
An application for a MR of a DWP or child benefit decision must be ‘received’ by the DWP or HMRC ‘within one month of the date of notification of the original decision’.1 A month means a calendar month. Note that there are special rules for social fund decisions (see Chapter 54(2) of the CPAG Handbook).
There are three main exceptions to the one month time limit:
- If you have requested a statement of written reasons for a DWP or child benefit decision because this was not included in the decision notice, the time limit for applying for a MR is extended by 14 days if the statement is provided within one month of the original decision. If the statement is provided more than one month after the original decision, you must apply for a MR within 14 days of the date it was provided. Note that it may not always be clear whether a decision notice includes a statement of reasons, so it is always best to request a MR within one month of the original decision, even if you have requested a statement of reasons.
- If you have grounds for an ‘any time revision’ (see Chapter 54(2) of the CPAG Handbook), there is no legal time limit for applying for a MR.This applies to revisions on the basis of 'official error' and revisions of sanction decisions.2. Note, however, that unless you have applied for a MR within one month of the decision or a late application has been accepted (see below), the time limit for appealing to a tribunal runs from the date of the original decision.3. You should always, therefore, give grounds for applying late, if you make your application outside the one month time limit but within the 13 month time limit for late applications (see below).
- You have grounds for a late application (see below).
An application for a MR of a tax credits decision must be ‘received’ by HMRC ‘within 30 days of the date of notification of the original decision’.4 The only exception is where you have grounds for a late application (see below).
It is, therefore, very important that you ensure that the DWP or HMRC receive and accept your application for a MR within one month or 30 days. Note that the date of notification is normally the date on the decision letter– you may not actually receive the letter until several days later.
The DWP must receive your application within one calendar month e.g. by 18th November for a decision notified on 18th October, or 28th February for a decision notified on 31st January. For HMRC decisions, the 30 days starts on the date of notification. If you are close to the end of the allowed period, you may need to make your application by telephone and follow up with a letter of confirmation. You may be able to find out the email address of the office and submit your application or confirmation by email.
The time limits can be extended up to a maximum of 13 months if:
- it was not practicable for you have made your application in time because of ‘special circumstances’; and
- it is ‘reasonable’ to extend the time limit.5
The 13 months runs from the date you were notified of the decision, but in the case of PIP, universal credit (UC), or contributory JSA or ESA (if you come under the UC system), the 13 months runs from the latest date your application should have been received by.
You must apply to DWP or HMRC for an extension of time. It is best to do this in writing, so that you can fully explain the reasons why your application is late. There is no definition of ‘special circumstances’ and no requirement that the circumstances are exceptional or unexpected. So any reasons you have for the lateness of your application could be relevant. These could include that you were ill or were dealing with a domestic emergency or other difficulties, or that you were misadvised or did not know about the time limits. The later your application is, however, the more compelling your reasons must be.
Note that if you have grounds for an ‘any time revision’ against a DWP or child benefit decision (e.g. on the basis of official error), there is no time limit and you do not need to show ‘special circumstances’.
Right to appeal following a late application
In R (CJ) and SG v SSWP (ESA)  UKUT 324 (AAC), a three-judge panel of the Upper Tribunal held that, for benefits administered by the DWP, there is a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal even where a request for a mandatory reconsideration is refused on the grounds of lateness. The DWP has accepted this judgment and issued guidance (DMG Memo 17/17 and ADM Memo 21/17) for decision makers which states that if a late mandatory reconsideration request is received and reasons for lateness are not accepted, a decision refusing to revise should be given and a mandatory reconsideration notification issued, which gives the claimant the right to appeal direct to the First-tier Tribunal.
The Upper Tribunal decision does not directly apply to benefits adminstered by HMRC. However, CPAG's view is that the reasoning in CJ applies equally to tax credits. For more information on the legal position and a template letter challenging an HMRC refusal to accept a late mandatory reconsideration request see the February 2018 Welfare Rights Bulletin Article Appeal Rights and Tax Credits