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Over 75 and mistakenly paid for your TV licence? Reclaims may be stopped from next year

Over 75 and mistakenly paid for your TV licence? Reclaims may be stopped from next year

Pensioners may face a deadline of June 2020 to reclaim TV licence fees they've accidentally paid, MoneySavingExpert.com has learned.

Currently anyone over 75 is eligible for a free TV licence, but many accidentally pay each year and then have to reclaim the cash - with almost £38 million being paid back in three years.

At the moment, you can reclaim as far back as 1 November 2000, but from next June, the BBC plans to end free TV licences for over-75s unless they get pension credit.

When asked if after this date pensioners will still be able to claim back cash mistakenly paid under the current rules, the corporation said it was "considering" what will happen, and wasn't able to guarantee you'll be able to do this after the rule change. 

So if you're over 75 and have been unintentionally paying for your TV licence (or you know someone who has been), consider if you want to reclaim the cash now.

Unsure if you need a TV licence? See our 20+ TV licence tips.

Martin: 'Stopping people reclaiming would be outrageous' 

Martin Lewis, founder and chair of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "We know that people are confused about the free TV licence, and the upcoming changes will only make that worse. So to coincide that with stopping people reclaiming money when they have wrongly paid would be simply outrageous. The BBC as a publicly-funded public service broadcaster may well be in a difficult financial position after the settlement with the Government, but it still has to play fair and responsibly.

"If, as it has said, it does end up linking the licence fee to pension credit, then as a bare minimum it should link it to pension credit eligibility not as it has said to claiming pension credit – as 1.3m eligible people don’t get the credit. With the right mechanism, it can use this as a way to signpost people to getting pension credit too, doing a valuable social good. And those who miss out, and should’ve got it but only realise later, should be allowed to back claim."

How to get a free TV licence if you're 75+ (or reclaim if you've paid)

While some may choose not to apply for a free licence and refund on principle, for instance because they want to support the BBC, others simply forget to stop paying, as the free licence for over-75s is not issued automatically and needs to be applied for. 

Once issued, the licence is currently renewed automatically every year, unless you don't have a national insurance number, in which case TV Licensing will get in touch each year to ask you to confirm your circumstances have not changed.

  • If you're over 75 – you can apply for a free over-75 licence on the TV Licensing website or by calling 0300 790 6130. TV Licensing says "when we process your free over-75 licence application we will also refund any money overpaid", but you may need to provide additional information for this.

  • If you're 74 – you can get a short-term TV Licence to cover you until your 75th birthday. This lets you pay only for the months you have left until you turn 75. Again, you can get one of these on the TV Licensing website.

You can also claim for a licence holder if you have Power of Attorney for them.

TV Licensing will also issue refunds to the estate of a deceased person who has paid for a TV licence when they would have been entitled to a free over-75 licence. 

The rules are different in the Isle of Man, where free TV licences have only been available since April 2018. In Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney over-75s aren't routinely entitled to a free licence, but may be if they meet certain conditions. Over-75s in Sark aren't offered free TV licences.

How are the rules changing from next year?

Free TV licences will only be available for over-75s who receive pension credit from next June, but 1.3 million eligible households don't claim this benefit.

We're calling on the BBC to launch an education campaign about it. Check NOW to see if you're eligible. 

See our BBC to end free TV licences for over-75s unless they get pension credit MSE News story for full info.

What does the BBC say? 

When asked if it could guarantee you will still be able to reclaim under the current rules after 1 June 2020, the BBC was unable to.

A spokesperson said: "The current scheme remains in place and allows refunds to be provided when a licence is unnecessarily purchased, and while details of the new scheme are still being worked through it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that refunds for historic purchases made unnecessarily will end."