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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Customer contact and data security: introduction: face to face contact

Although a lot of the work that we do in Debt Management is on the telephone, we also do a considerable amount which requires us to be face to face with the customer. Each time a member of staff has a requirement to visit a customer they must follow the departments guide on personal safety, observe their local office arrangements, and must undertake a risk assessment prior to any outdoor visit.


Field Force/Distraint

If a customer

  • fails to keep to the agreement we have made with them,
  • fails to respond to our requests for payment, or
  • fails to submit a missing return

we will pursue enforcement action.

This is usually via a Field Force/Distraint visit which means a trained officer of HMRC will visit the customers private or business premises to collect payment. If the customer continues to refuse to pay the Field Force/Distraint Officer can levy on the customers assets to secure payment at auction of the HMRC debt. The Field Force officer will remain professional at all times and will attempt to secure the payment prior to the levy using trained negotiating skills.

A Field Force/Distraint Officer can

  • ask for and take payment
  • set up a Time To Pay (TTP)
  • levy on goods to secure the debt.

Field Force officers will verify that they are speaking to the correct person using specific verification checks designed for outdoor work.

For more information on Field Force/Distraint, see DMBM655000.

For the outdoor call verification card, see DMBM513110.

Clerical calls

As well as enforcement visits some offices still undertake clerical calls. These calls are usually done by collectors and unlike Field Force/Distraint calls the collector cannot levy during these calls nor have any legal powers to allow them to enforce payment.

The collector can however:

  • gather general information such as confirming the customers address, place of business etc.
  • ask for and take payment
  • ask for and take missing returns
  • can give an overall view of the assets position of the customer (although they cannot formally list the assets)
  • warn of enforcement action
  • discuss TTP
  • offer advice and help to customers who are in difficulty when it comes to paying their tax
  • occasionally make a special visit to help elderly or infirm individuals with their tax position
  • serve legal documents.

The visiting collectors will verify that they are speaking to the correct person using verification checks designed for outdoor work if they specifically need to discuss the customers record.

For the outdoor call verification card, see DMBM513110.


Occasionally there will be a need to meet with a customer face to face for a meeting to resolve an outstanding tax issue. This could be to

  • Quantify their books (Officer level and above)
  • Help fill out their return and establish the correct figure owed
  • Discuss TTP
  • Go through the balance owed with them and reconcile the debt.

Sometimes the meetings may take place in the HMRC building if there is a facility for this, or the meeting may take place at the customers business or personal address at a pre defined mutually agreeable time.

Both the member of staff and the customer should be clear

  • on what the meeting is about
  • on what they need to bring or provide
  • when and where the meeting is.

You should also make sure that the customer has your name so that they can ensure they are speaking to the correct individual. When the member of staff meets the customer, they should undertake the outdoor call verification checks prior to commencing the meeting.

During such meetings the member of staff should observe the usual personal and heath and safety requirements of the office and follow the guide lines to ensure their own safety.

Customer service should be maintained at all times and the member of staff will be expected to be courteous and polite and remember they are representing HMRC.

For the outdoor call verification card, see DMBM513110.