Pre-enforcement: recovery documentation and checks: certificates of debt
Claims in civil courts can often involve large amounts of written evidence presented by the parties involved. Since most cases pursued by HMRC are relatively straightforward, the Department has special legislation that permits evidence in support of any debt HMRC administers to be presented to the court in a way that will normally avoid the need for lengthy documentation. This summary form of evidence is called a ‘certificate of debt’.
Section 25A Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (inserted with effect from 21 July 2008 by Section 138 Finance Act 2008) streamlined the process by simplifying the certificate to be produced. The certificate certifies that the debt is payable to the Commissioners and remains unpaid and so it cannot be signed unless the debt is correctly due.
There is no relaxation in the need for the officer signing the certificate to be satisfied about the correctness of the debt that, if necessary, may mean contacting Customer Ops for confirmation.
Customer Ops receive notification that legal proceedings have commenced and should inform debt management offices of any information which might affect the liability or the recovery action being taken.
The simplified certificate, signed by an Officer grade or above, will be accepted as sufficient, but not conclusive, evidence that the sum is unpaid and due to the Crown. It may still be challenged as to form, or outweighed by other evidence put before the court. Ultimately the decision whether to accept such evidence is for the court.
Form of certificate
There is a standard form of certificate to support all debts and, if it is convenient to do so, you may certify non-payment of all outstanding debts in the claim in a single certificate.
In all cases you should prepare certificates of debt using the template and accompanying table housed within the Guidance Gateway.
Where your claim includes interest bearing liabilities, you should calculate interest up to the date of the hearing and include that amount on the certificate.
Application by debtor
There is no bar to issuing certificates of debt to debtors or their agents.