Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA) – All You Need To Know!
In the UK, there are several debt management solutions that can be taken out against you by someone you owe money to where your debt is recovered through your wages.
From Attachment of Earnings Orders to Deductions of Earnings Orders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; to Earning Arrestments, Conjoined Earning Arrestments and Maintenance Arrestments in Scotland.
Understandably, this can lead to a great deal of confusion about the various different types of debt management solution available and why one may be used over another.
A debt management solution that can be enforced across the whole of the UK, however, is a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA).
What is a Direct Earnings Attachment?
A Direct Earnings Attachment is used to recover benefit overpayments and covers all types of benefits that are administered by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). They can also be used by local authorities to recover housing benefit overpayments.
When it is used to recover an overpayment of housing benefit, it is the local authority that instructs your employer to apply the DEA.
It is, however, important to note that if you are facing debt, a DEA can also benefit you by making use of government legislation to write off unsecured debt, reduce monthly payments and stop pressure from the people you owe money to.
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How does a DEA work?
If you have been overpaid benefits or have had tax credit overpayments, a DEA deduction will be taken through your monthly earnings.
There is no court order for Direct Earnings Attachments but your employer will be given details of your payment schedule as they will be responsible for paying DEA deductions directly to the DWP, HMRC, or local authority.
They will write to you to inform you of your DEA but you may be able to avoid it by agreeing to manually pay your total net payment in instalments or paying the total money owed upfront before any action is taken.
How long does a DEA last?
When an employer is informed that one of their employees has a DEA, they have 22 days to set up a payment schedule.
The DEA payment to the DWP must also be received by the 19th of the month at the very latest following the month the first deduction has been made.
What happens if you receive a DEA for an employee?
If you receive a DEA for an employee or more than one employee, you will receive a formal notice asking you to implement the DEA.
It will include basic instructions on how to implement the DEA as well as the employee’s National Insurance number which must be quoted on all correspondence and payments made.
You are responsible for calculating the employee’s DEA deduction based on their net earnings for each pay date, make payments to the relevant department by the specified date (usually pay day) every month, and keep a record of every employee that has a DEA.
If an employee’s weekly or monthly earnings are below the threshold for a DEA deduction, a DEA cannot be implemented.
You can also deduct up to £1 from your employee’s earnings to be put towards administrative costs when a DEA deduction is made every pay period.
How much can be taken if a DEA is applied?
If a DEA is applied, there are three options available to either the DWP or local authority dealing with it:
- First, they can apply for the Direct Earnings Attachment at the Standard Rate;
- Second, they can apply for it at the Higher Rate;
- Thirdly, they can request the DEA at a fixed rate.
Where the DEA is applied at the standard rate, the maximum that can be taken from someone’s wages is 20%; where it is applied for at the higher rate, up to 40% of an employee’s net earnings can be taken.
The DEA, however, can never leave someone with less than 60% of their net income (the amount of money left after income tax, National Insurance and stakeholder pension contributions have been taken off).
When the Direct Earnings Attachment is applied for at either the standard or higher rate, a sliding scale is used, with how much is to be deducted being based on a percentage and how much someone earnings are daily, weekly or monthly.
What happens if you have another arrestment on your earnings?
Direct Earning Attachments are non-priority arrestments, so if another type of arrestment, like an Attachment of Earnings Order (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or an Earnings Arrestment (Scotland) is applied, then the DEA must give way to it.
This does not mean that both can be applied at the same time, but you can never be left with less than 60% of your net earnings.
Where the priority arrestment leaves you with less than 60% of your net wage, then the DEA should not be applied. However, where it does not, but applying both at the same time would, then the DEA should only be applied partially.
If you have student loans being deducted from your earnings, these should also take priority over a DEA.
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What is classed as earnings for a DEA?
The following payments are classed as earnings for a DEA:
- Wages/salary (including bonuses and overtime pay)
- Fees and commission
- Occupational pensions (if paid with wages/salary)
- Compensation payments
- Statutory sick pay
What isn’t classed as earnings for a DEA?
The following payments aren’t classed as earnings for a DEA:
- Statutory maternity pay
- Statutory adoption pay
- Ordinary or additional paternity pay
- Guaranteed minimum pension
- Allowances or credit paid by DWP
- Statutory redundancy pay
- Expenses or sums paid to reimburse expenses wholly
- HM Forces allowances
Will a DEA affect my credit rating?
Unlike most debt recovery solutions, a DEA does not appear on your credit report and therefore does not affect your credit rating in any way.
If you are worried that a DEA will push you further into debt elsewhere, however, you must inform your local authority and settle your debt with an alternative debt management solution such as a Debt Relief Order (DRO).
Can I get a fixed rate for my DEA?
It may be possible to contact either your local authority or the DWP if you are suffering from hardship to request they set a fixed rate below the Standard or Higher Rates, or even to lift the Direct Earnings Arrestment and enter into an informal agreement with you to repay the overpayment at an agreed amount each month.
Are there exceptions for DEAs and formal debt solutions?
It is the DWP’s policy, as outlined in their Benefit Overpayment Recovery Guidance, to not recover benefit overpayments during a formal debt solution.
This includes the following formal debt solutions:
- Debt Relief Orders;
- Minimum Asset Procedures (Scotland);
- Protected Trust Deeds (Scotland); or
- Individual Voluntary Arrangements
It is also their policy to not recover overpayment of benefits when someone enters into the Debt Arrangement Scheme in Scotland, if the debt is included into the Debt Arrangement Scheme.
In all cases, this also means lifting any Direct Earning Attachments that have been applied once the solution commences and making any refunds where the DEA continue after the solution commences.
What do I do if my DEA payments are wrong?
If you think your DEA payments are wrong or your employer has made a mistake, you must contact DWP Debt Management or the HMRC tax credits helpline.
The relevant contact information should be on the initial letter that you received informing you of your DEA.
If one or more deductions have been missed or an incorrect amount has been deducted in error, this is known as a shortfall.
DEDUCTIONS FROM EARNINGS RATE
|Amount of Net Earnings (Net earnings are gross pay, less income tax, Class 1 National Insurance and superannuation contributions)||Deduction Rate to Apply (Standard)||Deduction Rate to Apply (Higher)|
|Daily Earnings||Weekly Earnings||Monthly Earnings|
|Up to £15||Up to £100||Up to £430||Nil||5%|
|Between £15.01 and £23||Between £100.01 and £160||Between £430.01 and £690||3%||6%|
|Between £23.01 and £32||Between £160.01 and £220||Between £690.01 and £950||5%||10%|
|Between £32.01 and £39||Between £220.01 and £270||Between £950.01 and £1160||7%||14%|
|Between £39.01 and £54||Between £270.01 and £375||Between £1160.01 and £1615||11%||22%|
|Between £54.01 and £75||Between £375.01 and £520||Between £1615.01 and £2240||15%||30%|
|£75.01 or more||£520.01 or more||£2240.01 or more||20%||40%|