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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Debt and return pursuit: Child Benefit overpayments: introduction to CBO: the Child Benefit Office decision maker and the decision-making process

If it appears that a customer has been awarded and paid benefit to which they may not have been entitled the CBO Decision Maker (DM) should consider the circumstances.

A DM’s responsibilities in connection with overpayments are laid down in the Social Security Act 1998.

The DM must decide if a person has:

  • misrepresented a material fact, that is, if benefit has been paid on the basis of information provided by the customer and that information is later found to be incorrect
  • failed to disclose a material fact, that is, if a customer fails to tell us about a change in their circumstances or fails to do so straight away.

They must also decide, as a result of any misrepresentation or failure to disclose:

  • if the customer has been overpaid
  • how much has been overpaid
  • who is responsible for the overpayment and who it should be recovered from
  • the classification of the gross overpayment (recoverable or non-recoverable)
  • the question of recovery
  • the recording of any amount which is non-recoverable because of Official Error.

If the DM decides that an overpayment is recoverable they will then decide:

  • if repayment is required
  • how much of the overpayment is to be repaid.

Normally, full repayment will be sought, but in some cases repayment of a lesser amount (for example, in cases of ‘abatement’ will be sought (DMBM557150).

Once it has been determined that there is a recoverable CHB debt, the CHB DM:

  • (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
  • updates the CHB system (CBCS)
  • issues an overpayment decision letter to the customer explaining why they have been overpaid; this includes ‘how to pay’ details and a payment slip, or if the customer is outside the UK a ‘how to pay from abroad’ leaflet is attached
  • refers an E37 (Electronic debt referral form) to Washington DTO, who then register the debt and await payment.