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Benefits Overpayment - How is an overpayment recovered?

Guide to Benefits Overpayments, what they are, why they happen and what you should do if you have been overpaid

How is an overpayment recovered?

When you have been overpaid benefits, the repayments can be taken from you by:

  • Making deductions from your benefit payments

  • Taking it out of benefits that are owed to you

  • Taking amounts directly out of your wages

  • Getting a court order for debt recovery.

If you are receiving benefits, any overpayment is normally repaid by reducing your benefit payments. Overpayments can be recovered from most benefits you may be getting.

There is a maximum rate of deduction from:

The maximum deduction from these benefits is £11.55 a week or £30.80 a week where the overpayment was due to fraud or you have agreed to a civil penalty. See our Fraud Investigations guide.

The maximum deduction from Universal Credit depends on your circumstances, whether you are working and whether the overpayment is from overpaid hardship payments. 

There is no maximum deduction from other benefits. However, you can always try to negotiate a lower rate if the amount the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) ask for is too high.

The maximum amount that can be taken out of your wages depends on how much you earn and whether you have been found guilty of an offence. You are usually left with at least 60% of your net earnings. 

If the benefits office is not able to recover the overpayment from your ongoing benefit payments or your wages, you will be asked to repay the amount in full or to make a repayment plan.

If you do not repay, you may face court action. This must usually begin within six years after the date of the recovery decision.

If you are threatened with court action, you should get benefits or debt advice immediately. You can use our Find an Adviser to look for an adviser near you. 

What if I can't afford to repay?

You would not normally be expected to make repayments if this would leave you without enough money to meet your basic living costs. You would usually need to provide a financial statement to show that you cannot afford to repay. Use our Find an Adviser to recover for the time being, they may contact you again or start recovering from your benefit at a later date.

If you have been overpaid a benefit and can’t repay, you should seek advice as soon as possible.

Reviewed: April 2022

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