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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Pre-enforcement: consider the defaulter: vulnerable customers

Debt Management and Personal Tax have warm handover arrangements for calls with customers who Need Enhanced Support (NES). However, you may still encounter such customers in your normal day-to-day duties that either you will be able to handle yourself or deem they need extra support from NES.

There is also useful information at DMBM585185 concerning customers with health issues covered by the Equality Act 2010.

When to refer cases to NES

There are two different NES teams that you should consider referring customers to. In both instances, you should refer cases where you believe a customer needs extra support (refer to the six indicators) and it should go to the:

  • DM NES team if the customer has an outstanding debt to be collected; however, no referral is required if you can resolve it yourself (by TTP, remission and so on) or where the case is already being worked by the DM NES team (see how to handle these cases below)
  • National NES team if the customer has another form of enquiry such as needing to complete a tax return, resolve their tax affairs or bring their case up to date; however, this team only deal with individuals’ PAYE, SA and tax credits.

How to refer cases to NES

In order to refer cases to the correct NES team, for referrals to:

  • DM NES, complete the ‘DM NES Referral–Debt’ found in the ‘xmls Forms’ option in SEES
  • National NES, Kcom users have access to speed dials where they can carry out warm handovers (but the team only cover individuals’ PAYE, SA and tax credits); if you can’t get through, complete the ‘DM NES Referral–National’ found in SEES ‘xmls Forms’.

The forms will ask about activities (such as cleansing or remissions) that your team or office may not do; if this is the case, please explain so on the referral. The completed template will create an email automatically with the content you have input; if you realise you have made a mistake after the email has been generated, do not amend the email content but complete a new form instead.

You should not send referrals to both NES teams simultaneously; if both elements are involved, you should first refer it to National NES. If you have any further questions about the DM NES referral, email the Bradford CC DM NES Cases, Mailbox (PT Operations Contact Centres).

Updating IDMS for DM NES referrals

When referring a case to the DM NES Team, you should:

  • record all of the relevant information on IDMS
  • transfer the IDMS household/taxpayer and work items to MU 365924
  • set the next action code to ‘N/A Review’ and the BF Date to the next day.

How to handle cases already working with NES

You may encounter cases already ring-fenced and being worked by the DM NES team. You can normally identify such cases by the name of the MUs they are held within, the content of notes or the identifiers ‘EST’ or ‘NES’ in the IDMS Action History. Provided NES’ notes do not advise you to refer the customer back to NES if they call, you can deal with the case as long as you are confident you can resolve the case satisfactorily. If you can resolve the case, you should:

  • follow your usual SWI guidance to deal with these calls but do not set IA, TTP Monitor or TTP Review as this will transfer the case outside of NES ownership
  • ensure the IDMS household/taxpayer and work items remain in the NES MUs
  • set a BF of ten days with the next action of ‘N/A Review’
  • email the Bradford CC DM NES Cases, Mailbox (PT Operations Contact Centres) to advise the team of the actions you have taken, and note the subject heading ‘DM action taken’.

However, if you cannot resolve the case and you feel the customer requires a callback from NES, you should email the Bradford CC DM NES Cases, Mailbox (PT Operations Contact Centres) with the:

  • customer’s reference number
  • caller’s name and phone number
  • reason for contact.

Recovery proceedings for 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 phone call, 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 do not rule out recovery proceedings. The circumstances in which recovery proceedings may be considered most appropriate will be where either:

  • the defaulter is actively engaged in a business enterprise
  • 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
  • possibility of unreasonable distress
  • 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
  • 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, BF 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, or Summary Warrant action in Scotland, against an elderly or infirm customer are possible but are not desirable, and they are in:

  • Scotland, send the papers and a full report for customers in to EIS Edinburgh (Elgin House, 20 Haymarket Yards, Edinburgh, EH12 SWN) and transfer the case on IDMS to MU 370300
  • Northern Ireland, send the papers and a full report for customers in to EIS Belfast (Elgin House, 20 Haymarket Yards, Edinburgh, EH12 SWN) and transfer the case on IDMS to MU 362700
  • England & Wales, email the details to DMB Bradford EIS CCP Techs, Mailbox (DM) who’ll advise if the case meets the criteria and where to transfer it.