If you’ve been served with an enforcement notice by HMRC, understanding your rights can improve the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Once an enforcement notice has been served, it’s clear that HMRC have decided to vigorously pursue the debt and this may mean ultimately all the way through to winding up your company.

If you believe your business remains financially viable, you are left with the choice to either pay the debt in full, or negotiate a Time to Pay arrangement. If you come to the conclusion that your business is insolvent, you are generally best advised to consider voluntary liquidation. Please call us to discuss your options.

What is a Notice of Enforcement?

A notice of enforcement, sent in the form of a letter, is a warning sign that HMRC has now escalated your situation to the point where they are going to enforce bailiff action.

This means your company’s goods will be seized after a 7 day period, and sold at auction so that HMRC can recoup some of the money owed to them.

Unlike most other creditors, HMRC can instruct bailiffs  without the need for a court order (as can landlords) which makes it a commonly used method for them to recoup debt.

HMRC Notice of Enforcement Letter Sample

What are HMRC’s Enforcement Powers?

The various parties have different rights, so it’s important you establish exactly who has visited your premises. An HMRC Enforcement Officer will carry an identify card, so make sure you ask to see it and note down the details.

Can HMRC Agents Force Entry?

They have the right to force entry into your commercial premises if they have been authorised by a Justice of the Peace. If your premises are part residential as well as commercial, they can only enter the property by normal routes and during specific times.

You should always validate the identity of anyone purporting to work for HMRC by asking to see their photo ID, make a note of it, and calling 0300 200 3862 to check it is genuine.[1]Trusted Source – .GOV- Debt collection: confirm the identity of HMRC staff

At this point in the enforcement action, it is still possible to negotiate with HMRC officers. They will issue you with the enforcement notice, which gives you seven days to pay the debt. If you cannot repay the debt in full, you may be able to negotiate a Time to Pay arrangement at this time. If you stick to these arrangements, action to seize goods from your premises will cease.

It might be that the enforcement notice is not delivered in person. It is still binding if it is sent in the post, by fax or even via email. Alternatively, it could be attached to the outside of the building if you’re out when the officers arrive.

See our full article on this here.

What is Controlled Goods Agreement (CGA)?

One the enforcement officer arrives at your premises, after the 7 day waiting period, they will present you with a Controlled Goods Agreement[2]Trusted Source – .GOV- Controlled Goods Agreeement, which is a document outlining what the officer proposes to take.

They will leave this document with you and you’ll have a further 7 days to pay the debt before they return to actually take controll of the goods.

Choosing to sign the controlled goods agreement gives the officers the right to inspect or take the goods at any time. As a company director, you are prohibited from removing or selling the goods. This would constitute a criminal offence and would not help the situation you are in.

Taking Control of Goods Enforcement Action

If payment negotiations are unsuccessful and you fail to pay the amount owed within seven days, the bailiffs will return. At this point, they will seize whatever goods are listed on the CGA, under the powers of the The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013[3]Trusted Source – Legislation- The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013.

Goods will be seized to not only cover the cost of the debt, but also to pay for the enforcement action. As the goods are sold at public auction, they often sell for far less than they are actually worth. For this reason, Enforcement Officers will take what might seem to be an excessive number of goods.

Have You Been Sent a Notice of Enforcement?

HMRC does not have to go through the courts to seize goods to collect money they are owed. For this reason, you should always act quickly if you are threatened with enforcement action. HMRC has been known to target the wrong businesses and make other administrative mistakes, so you should check all the details on the enforcement notice one it’s served.

At Company Debt we can help you check the details of the enforcement notice and provide expert assistance to help you negotiate a deal. If you have received or been threatened with an HMRC enforcement notice, please call our free directors’ helpline today for a free consultation – no strings attached.


The primary sources for this article are listed below, including the relevant laws and Acts which provide their legal basis.

You can learn more about our standards for producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy here.

  1. Trusted Source – .GOV- Debt collection: confirm the identity of HMRC staff
  2. Trusted Source – .GOV- Controlled Goods Agreeement
  3. Trusted Source – Legislation- The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013