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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: distraint: preparing for distraint calls: using a bailiff for accompanied visits

The term `bailiff’ applies to a person who holds either a bailiff’s general certificate or a Sheriff’s Officer’s identity card. Where a former member of staff is to be engaged as a bailiff, the senior debt manager should obtain prior authority from the Debt Management Group Office.

This section covers the exceptional circumstances where you may use a bailiff for accompanied distraint visits but their primary use by DMOs is in conducting removals, appraisals and auctions when required (DMBM656030).

The senior debt manager is responsible for ensuring therefore that, subject to DMB policy, any bailiff you use when levying distraint can also provide adequate facilities to conduct removals and auctions.

All the checks and requirements detailed below apply equally where the bailiff is used solely for auctioneering duties (DMBM656030).

The higher debt manager should

  • ask the bailiff to sign a declaration of secrecy
  • make sure that on the first occasion you use the bailiff for distraint work you examine the bailiff’s

    • general certificate which has been issued by a county court, or
    • Sheriff’s Officer’s identity card which has been issued by the Sheriff of a County
  • keep a copy of the certificate or identity card and review it either annually or whenever it is renewed
  • check that the bailiff’s own tax affairs are up to date in accordance with any vetting procedures set in place by the DMGO. This means if they are an employer IT-PAYE/NIC should be paid regularly on the 19th of each month and the P35 submitted on time and individuals subject to SA should make their payments and file their returns by the specified dates. Similarly the VAT position should be checked to ensure payments are up to date and returns submitted on time. These checks should continue to be made periodically.
  • tell the bailiff in writing

    • about payment of the fees (note that you cannot guarantee to pay them the full amount of the levy fees. If you have to make arrangements for removal with another person, part of the fees may be paid to them)
    • how payment will be made
    • whether an attendance fee will be paid
    • that HMRC will not pay a claim to charges or expenses in excess of the set scale or claims for subsistence or travel to and from your office
    • that HMRC expects the bailiff to be up to date at all times with their own tax affairs
  • establish whether the bailiff is a `taxable person’ for VAT purposes and if so

    • make a note of the VAT registration number for use when the monthly statement is prepared
  • make periodic check as to whether there has been any change in the bailiff’s status as a `taxable person’.