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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Pre-enforcement: consider the defaulter: elderly or infirm customers

In order to avoid action that could attract public criticism or complaint, the higher debt manager should personally examine the papers to confirm that nothing short of enforcement proceedings would result in payment. If necessary, arrange for a telephone, or exceptionally a personal call, by an experienced officer to make tactful but determined efforts to persuade the customer to pay voluntarily. If tax returns are outstanding and could, if completed, result in a reduction of the liability, make determined efforts to obtain them.

If payment is still not made, or part of the liability remains outstanding, consider whether proceedings are possible or desirable. Age or ill health does not rule out recovery proceedings. The circumstances in which recovery proceedings may be considered most appropriate will be where:

  • the defaulter is actively engaged in a business enterprise or
  • there appear to be prospects of enforcing a judgment by action against assets rather than income, that is to say using third party debt order, charging order or bankruptcy.

But, in all cases take into account:

  • the possible detrimental effect on the debtor
  • the possibility of unreasonable distress
  • the likelihood of adverse publicity.

Treat each case on its merits.

Elderly debtors

You can take enforcement proceedings if the debtor

  • is in good health
  • understands the action you are about to take and
  • has adequate funds or assets against which you can enforce payment.

Ill or infirm debtors

Where an individual has suddenly become seriously ill, suspend action. If they are likely to recover and there are good prospects for payment, b/f the case for further action. Often relatives or agents will be able to give you an indication of how long this should be.

If they are unlikely to recover, periodically review the position with an aim to claiming in the estate once the customer is deceased.

Cases of doubt

If your manager considers that enforcement proceedings against an elderly or infirm customer are possible, but are not desirable, send the papers and a full report for customers in:

  • Scotland, to EIS Edinburgh (Elgin House, 20 Haymarket Yards, Edinburgh, EH12 SWN) and transfer the case on IDMS to MU 370300
  • Northern Ireland, to EIS Belfast (Custom House, Custom House Square, Belfast, BT1 3ET) and transfer the case on IDMS to MU 362700
  • England & Wales, to EIS Worthing (Durrington Bridge House, Barrington Road, Worthing, BN12 4SE) and transfer the case on IDMS to MU 388000.