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i This applies to England and Wales only

What is a direct earnings attachment?

A direct earnings attachment (DEA) is a way DWP Debt Management may collect:

  • Benefits overpayments
  • Tax credits overpayments

It takes money directly from your monthly income to pay back the debt.

  • This can be wages or benefits
  • DWP should contact you before taking money
  • They should let you offer to pay in stages

A direct earnings attachment does not need a court order.

Your employer gets details of what to take from your pay.

Other ways money can be taken from your wages for debts are:

Debts to government departments and local authorities are ‘priority debts’. Falling behind on them can be bad.

Get help any time. Our debt advice is free and confidential.

Frequently asked questions

Can I stop a direct earnings attachment?

In some cases you can stop a DEA.

Making a payment arrangement

  • Contact the person you owe. Do this as soon as you can
  • Ask to make monthly payments to what you owe
  • Explain what you can afford to pay each month. You can do this by completing a budget form

HMRC, DWP and councils can take lower payments if it is making life hard for you.

They will not enforce the DEA if they agree to your repayment plan.

Challenging the DEA

If you do not think you were overpaid:

  1. Raise a complaint with the people you owe
  2. Go to their 'ombudsman'
  • This is the official body that oversees their work

Can I stop HMRC from changing my tax code?

You can object to them doing this.

Contact HMRC and work out a payment plan with them.

They will not adjust your tax code if they agree.

What counts as earnings for a direct earnings attachment?

'Earnings' includes:

  • Wages and salary, including:
  • Bonuses
  • Overtime pay
  • Fees and commission
  • Commission
  • Occupational pensions, if paid with wages or salary
  • Compensation payments
  • Statutory Sick Pay

The following are not counted as earnings:

  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Ordinary or Additional Paternity Pay
  • Guaranteed minimum pension
  • Any money you get from the government
  • Statutory redundancy pay
  • Expenses
  • Pay or allowances as a member of HM Forces,/li>
  • This does not include special members of the reserve force

How much can be taken from my wages with a direct earnings attachment?

There are two payment rates set by the DWP:

  1. Standard DEA rates
  2. Higher DEA rates

It depends on how much you earn. Higher earners pay more.

You often get the higher rate if you are found guilty of an offence.

40% of take home pay is usually the most that can be be taken.

Visit Gov.UK for more on how DEAs are calculated.

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Direct earnings attachments and benefit overpayments

A DEA can be used to collect overpayments on benefits from the DWP. These benefits include:

  • Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Child Benefit

The DWP should write to tell you before going ahead with the DEA.

Use our online benefits calculator to check you get everything you can.

Direct earnings attachments and housing benefits overpayments

Your local authority may use bailiffs or sheriff officers to recover these.

You may have to make repayments if:

  • You did not report a change in circumstances
  • You gave the council the wrong information
  • They overpaid you by mistake

Contact your local authority to find out about your Housing Benefit payments.

DEAs and loans from the DWP Social Fund

These loans include:

  • Winter fuel payments
  • Cold weather payments
  • Funeral payments

If you do not repay these as agreed, they can use a DEA.

To query overpayments, contact:

  • The Social Fund Enquiry Line
  • 0800 169 0140
  • Monday to Friday, 8am to 6:30pm.

DEAs and full income tax arrears or tax credit overpayments

HMRC can take money directly from your wages if:

  • You have arrears on income tax or other taxes
  • You were paid too much in tax credits

HMRC may change payments to get money back if:

  • You get benefits, and
  • Had a tax credits overpayment

They might do this instead of issuing a DEA.

There are two ways HMRC recovers money owed from wages:

  1. Using a direct earnings attachment
  2. Changing your tax code
  • This increases how much tax you pay each month

Call the HMRC tax credits helpline.

  • Telephone: 0345 300 3900
  • Textphone: 0345 300 3909
  • Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
  • Saturday, 8am to 4pm
  • Sunday, 9am to 5pm

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Worried about debt?

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