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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: distraint: general considerations: antiques and paintings

With antiques and paintings, you need to make sure that the defaulter has the ability to sell or dispose of the item and that it is not something in which they have a life interest only. Some family heirlooms are passed down to successive generations and, although the family member owns them, they cannot be disposed of or sold. So you should:

  • ensure your enquiries on this point are thorough. Remember that you may need to use specialist fine art auctioneers to appraise the goods in order to realise the best price for antiques and paintings. Seek advice on this from your auctioneer in the event of a removal
  • describe the item as accurately as possible, including the frame if it is a painting (ask the defaulter to assist)
  • ask the defaulter how much it is insured for
  • obtain proof, if possible, that it is authentic. Do not assume it is genuine simply because the defaulter says so
  • always make proper arrangements for removal and storage of valuable goods (of whatever sort) because if seized goods are damaged while in HMRC’s possession, the Department is liable for any damage or loss sustained.