HMRC Bailiffs – What Are the Rights and Powers of Enforcement Officers?

If you’ve received, or are imminently receiving a visit from HMRC’s bailiffs, you need to understand your rights as clearly as possible.

HMRC bailiffs, also known as agents or enforcement officers are a standart part of the way HM and Revenue escalate non payment of debts.

While it can seem extremely unsettling and violating to have them visiting your place of business, you need to remain calm and take appropriator action based on a full understanding of the facts.

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What Can HMRC Bailiffs Take?

What can HMRC bailiffs take? This is one of the questions most commonly asked by directors who have received a Notice of Enforcement

The answer isn’t simple. HMRC will send an enforcement officer (who is an HMRC employee) or a bailiff (who is not an HMRC employee) to carry out the collection of the tax debt.

An HMRC enforcement officer will always carry an identity card and will be able to show this to you if you request it.

Any HMRC bailiff will be able to show you a letter authorising them to act on HMRC’s behalf. In practice, it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to what they can do, but you should know who has visited your company in case you need to raise any complaints about their behaviour or actions.

What Can HMRC Bailiffs Take?
Answer
Can an HMRC bailiff forcibly enter your business premises?They can force entry when they have official authorisation from a Justice of the Peace
Are they allowed to take things that do not belong to us?Nothing hired, rented or borrowed can be seized by HMRC
Can HMRC bailiffs enter my home?They cannot, unless your home is your registered business address. In that instance, they can only take company assets.
What will happen to any goods that are seized?They will be sold at public auction

What are HMRC Bailiff’s Legal Rights?

We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions and answers to help you understand what HMRC’s enforcement officers and their appointed bailiffs can and can’t do.

Can an HMRC Bailiff Force Entry?

The idea of someone forcing their way into your company or residential premises is very distressing. Be assured, in most cases, the answer to this question is no, but there are some exceptions for unpaid tax arrears.

For a company’s tax debts the enforcement officers or bailiffs may be able to use reasonable force to force entry into commercial premises if they have been granted permission by the courts. They cannot force entry if the premises are residential (for example, your home) or part-residential. If this is the case, they will need to come during certain hours and using normal modes of entry. Normal modes of entry will include any open doors (but not over walls or through open windows) or if someone else (who is over the age of 16) lets them in.

Can HMRC Seize Assets?

HMRC has the right to seize assets via a mechanism known as a ‘distraint notice’ which essentially gives them the right to seize goods without a Court Order.

This will never happen at the first visit, it’s done subsequently to an initial visit where the officer makes an inventory of valuable items.

Business assets they might seize include IT equipment, stock and inventory, and company vehicles.

Can Bailiff’s Take Items That Don’t Belong To Me?

No, they can only take property that is fully owned by you. This means that property that’s been hired, rented or borrowed cannot be seized by HMRC. If the officer tries to seize property that you don’t own, you should tell them that it does not belong to you.

What are Bailiff's Legal Rights

What Can the Bailiffs Take From My Home?

As the director of a limited company, this will depend on whether your home contains any of the company’s assets. If your registered office is your home address, HMRC’s bailiffs can seize property from your home but only if they are company assets and not personal assets.

Can HMRC Take My House For a Limited Company Tax Debt?

The short answer to this is no. If your home is in your name, HMRC cannot seek to seize it to recover your company’s tax debts. However, if it’s in the company’s name HMRC won’t seize it but may instead force the company into liquidation using a compulsory liquidation so that the value of the property can be realised and distributed to the company’s creditors.

Can a Bailiff Take My Car?

If the car belongs to you personally, the same rule will apply as above – HMRC’s bailiffs or enforcement officers will not be able to seize it to satisfy your company’s tax debts unless you have given them a personal guarantee.

If the car belongs to the company, they can seize the car as part of the property taken to satisfy the company’s debt. This may mean that they clamp the car to prevent it being removed without their consent before they can remove it themselves.

If the car is only partially owned by your company – for example, if it is subject to a finance agreement, they cannot seize it as it is not fully owned by you.

Get in Touch for Free Advice

For more information on the powers of bailiffs and what they can take please contact us on 08000 746 757 or you can use our live chat feature or email us at [email protected].

FAQ’s

Can HMRC send debt collectors?

Yes they can. They will either send one of the agencies they subcontract debt collection work to, or they will send their own enforcement officers.

Will HMRC negotiate?

HMRC has a level of negotiation they’re open to, depending on the level of debt, your history, and how well you’ve been communicating with them. In general, their rules are well laid out and their system of escalation very standard. The earlier you approach them, the better your options.

Can I pay HMRC in Instalments?

HMRC are open to structured payment plans, also known as ‘time to pay arrangements’ assuming you have not had one before in the last 12 months, and there are no other extenuating circumstances.

Can HMRC check your bank account?

HMRC can obtain financial records from banks, financial institutions and accountants where pertinent to correct payment of tax. However, it needs to prove this information is ‘reasonably required’ and must get the tax payer’s approval first. However, HMRC are currently pushing for changes which would remove these safeguards and would give them direct access, any time they want.

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