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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: distraint: introduction to distraint: general

Purpose of distraint

The main purpose of a distraint visit is to obtain payment. If payment is not made distraint should be levied.

Distraint involves seizing and selling a debtor’s goods in settlement of outstanding HMRC debts, including costs. It is a summary and immediate remedy which does not require the sanction of a court and is the Department’s preferred enforcement route.

A court order only applies to distress warrants and warrants of execution, not distraint.