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i The advice on this page applies to anyone with personal debts taken out in the UK.

DWP Debt Management

DWP Debt Management and overpayments

You may be contacted by DWP Debt Management if you owe money to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This may happen if the DWP has made a mistake, you didn’t give the correct information when you applied, or you’ve had a change in circumstances that you should have told the DWP about.

What are DWP debts?

DWP debts happen when the DWP believes you’ve been overpaid for benefits, Tax Credits, or other payments. The DWP will expect you to repay these government debts over a reasonable timescale, by a number of possible means.

You should treat these as priority debts, because the consequences of not paying them can be serious.

Use our online benefits calculator to see what benefits you should be entitled to.

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Who are DWP Debt Management?

DWP debts are collected by DWP Debt Management. The main debts they collect are benefits overpayments, but they also collect:

  • Outstanding Social Fund loans
  • Advances (payments on account), including short-term benefit advances
  • Tax Credit overpayments
  • Overpaid benefit from the estates of people who died
  • Social security benefit relating to compensation cases
  • NHS costs relating to injury cases

If you’ve 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 (this is called a direct earnings attachment)
  • Getting a court order for debt recovery

If you’ve been overpaid Tax Credit but you’re still receiving it, the DWP will take money off future payments until the overpayment is paid off. If you’re no longer getting Tax Credit, the DWP will send you a bill and may expect you to pay in one lump sum.

How will I find out that I’ve had an overpayment?

If you’ve been overpaid a benefit, DWP Debt Management will write to you to let you know. They’ll explain why they think you’ve been overpaid.

If this happens, and you think the DWP has made a mistake, you should contact them straight away to let them know why. If they still think you’ve been overpaid, you can dispute the decision.

If you’ve received an overpayment, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being suspected of fraud.

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What are benefits overpayments?

Benefit overpayments can happen when the DWP makes a mistake with how much and what you’ve been paid. This may be a mistake by the DWP, or you may have provided the wrong information when you applied for the benefit.

If you’ve been overpaid benefits, repayments can be taken from you by one or more of the following means:

  • Making deductions from your continuing benefit payments
  • Taking amounts directly from your wages
  • Getting a court order to recover the debt

If you’re receiving benefits, overpayments are normally repaid by reducing your benefit payments.

If you think there’s been a mistake, and you haven’t been overpaid a benefit, you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration within one month of receiving the original letter.

What are Tax Credit overpayments?

Tax Credit overpayments can happen if a mistake was made with your application, or if you provided wrong or incomplete information when you applied.

If the Tax Credit Office has paid you too much tax credit, it’s likely that they’ll ask you to pay it back.  They’ll write to you to explain details of the overpayment, and how they expect you to repay it.

If you think the Tax Credit office has made a mistake, or gave you incorrect information or advice, you can dispute the decision.

signpost iconContact details for DWP Debt Management


Telephone: 0800 916 0647, Textphone: 0800 916 0651. More information on the Gov.UK website.

Can DWP Debt Management take money from my wages?

If you’ve been overpaid benefits or had tax credit overpayments, the amount you have to pay back may be taken directly from your wages through a direct earnings attachment (DEA).

There’s no court order for a direct earnings attachment. Your employer will be sent details of how much to take from your pay. Payments are made directly by the employer to the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).

The DWP should write to you before starting the direct earnings attachment, and you may be able to avoid the DEA by agreeing to pay the debt in instalments instead.

How long can DWP Debt Management chase me for a debt?

The standard period during which debts to the DWP can be reclaimed by them is six years.

If the DWP tries to issue a county court claim against you for an overpayment of benefit, and you think it is older than six years, you can put in a defence. However, if you’re planning to do this, you should seek legal advice.

As no court action is required, a direct earnings attachment can be used to recover benefit overpayments at any time, even after these debts are statute barred.

Can the DWP look at my bank account?

The DWP can look at your bank account and social media if it has reasonable grounds to suspect you might be involved in benefit fraud. For example, they can request information from your bank if they suspect that you didn’t disclose all the capital you held in your bank account.

If you’re struggling to deal with a DWP overpayment, it may be a sign that you’d benefit from expert debt advice. Use our online debt advice tool or call us.

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