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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: distraint: general considerations: tools of trade

Tools of trade include tools, implements, motor vehicles (including taxis and vans) and other items or equipment that are used by the defaulter in their work.

Some tools of trade may be so essential that without that particular item there would be no way the defaulter could continue their work. These are referred to as ‘necessary tools of trade’.

You should only distrain on necessary tools of trade where no, or insufficient, other distrainable goods (including non-necessary tools of trade) exist.

In exceptional cases, necessary tools of trade should not be distrained on at all. This will be the case where the distraint would be disproportionate because:

  • the distraint of the necessary tool(s) of trade would be likely to prevent the defaulter trading;


  • the value of the tools is very low compared to the outstanding tax liability (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)