While it can seem extremely unsettling to have bailiffs sent by HMRC visiting your place of business, you need to remain calm and take appropriate action based on a full understanding of the facts.

If your business has reached the point where HMRC are looking to seize goods, you should almost certainly be looking at whether you can or should continue trading. It’s almost always best to keep matters in your own hands rather than risk compulsory liquidation. Talk to our Insolvency Practitioners about the options and how we can help.


What Powers do HMRC Bailiffs have?

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 depends on whether the bailiffs visit business premises or your home. 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 if they Visit My Business?

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 an HMRC Enforcement Officer (Bailiff) Seize Assets from the Business?

HMRC has the right to seize assets via a mechanism known as a Controlled Goods Agreement[1]Trusted Source – Legislation – the Controlled Goods Agreement (CGA 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 them sending you a ‘Notice of Enforcement’ and giving at least 7 days notice. On an initial visit, the officer makes an inventory of valuable items. After this you will still have 7 more days to pay the debt before the goods are actually seized.

These powers are described in the Taking Control of Regulations Act 2013[2]Trusted Source – Legislation – Taking Control of Goods Regulations Act 2013 that lays out the circumstances, protocols, timelimits, and agreements by which goods can be seized.

Since HMRC will set any seized assets at auction, for a fraction of their original value, they may actually seize goods of a greater value than what you owe them.

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

Can Bailiffs 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.

Bailiff's Legal Rights

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 0800 074 6757 or you can use our live chat feature or email us at info@companydebt.com.


Do HMRC use bailiffs?

HMRC officers with the power to seize goods are known as enforcement officers. They do work with third party bailiff agencies, who are only permitted to use letter, phone and SMS rather than in person visits.


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 – Legislation – the Controlled Goods Agreement (CGA
  2. Trusted Source – Legislation – Taking Control of Goods Regulations Act 2013