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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
, see all updates

Pre-enforcement: consider the defaulter: deceased customers: no probate / confirmation

If the deceased was a sole trader and there is evidence of succession, that is trade is continuing/there are employees, contact the business address to find out:

  • who is continuing to trade
  • if the employees are now employed by the new business
  • when was the business sold/transferred
  • their current PAYE/ VAT reference number.

If it is a succession, only the debt to the date of the sale/transfer will be due from the deceased’s estate. Advise Customer Ops/ DTO if a new PAYE/VAT record is required.

For all sole liabilities, including those of a deceased sole trader where there is no evidence of the business continuing

£5,000 or less outstanding and/or insufficient assets

If either:

  • there is potentially less than £5,000 outstanding
  • you have clear evidence, preferably in writing, that probate/confirmation will not be sought because there are no estate assets
  • there is no jointly held property

and you are satisfied that further action will not be worthwhile:

  • do not pursue the estate for outstanding returns or for payment
  • complete a pro forma return as nil or equal to the amount of the total payments on record
  • make the record dormant/cease the employer record
  • put your reason for closure on SA notes
  • remit the debt Type 2 as in DMBM735030.

More than £5,000 and potential assets

If you suspect there may be assets, for instance where either:

  • income before death was high
  • you have confirmed that there were assets
  • a property was owned or jointly owned


  • check the deceased’s tax records and any other available source of information such as Customer Ops (for instance, if a statement of assets was provided with an investigation agreement), Tax Credit Office, DTO/ EEC team at Liverpool, Experian, or the former agent
  • contact the person who provided the initial information.

If you find out that:

  • the estate is in funds
  • there was a solely or jointly owned property

consider further action, including obtaining an insolvency administration order against the estate; see DMBM585285.