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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: distraint: preparing for distraint calls: linking debts and checks immediately before the distraint call

Other proceedings already in progress

In every case you must check that no other enforcement (e.g. CCP) or insolvency proceedings have been started for the same debt.

Enforcement strategy

The principle of combined working is that all debts for the same debtor, across all heads of duty for both direct and indirect taxes, are cross-referenced or otherwise suitably noted. This is to ensure that the whole of a taxpayer’s debt is included in a single recovery action as often as possible. However, bear in mind that where direct and indirect tax is involved they cannot be included in the same levy and distraint should always be taken as separate actions and against the larger debt first.

Recovery proceedings (RP) check

On the day of distraint

  • carry out the RP check (DMBM615040) and
  • update the IDMS history notes to reflect this.

For RP checks, telephone calls should be kept between 8am and 5pm. The use of faxed or e-mail lists can also be used subject to agreement between the offices concerned. If the list is long then the Debt Management Units (DMUs) would appreciate these being sent as early in the day as possible.

You should also take the opportunity to obtain additional information that the calling officer feels appropriate, for example if the debt is based on returns or assessments and or the periods involved.

You should already have been advised ‘immediately’ of further or amended indirect tax becoming due but if you are only advised of such a change at the RP check

  • ensure the DMU has issued a DNIP and 7 days elapsed before the debt is referred to you (whether or not you pursue the debt already held or await the new one is down to judgement on the relative amounts involved (DMBM655450).

Contacting your DMGO

Where the taxpayer is a large business concern or the case is one where enforcement action might attract adverse publicity you should contact your Debt Management Group Office (DMBM655500).

Personal safety

A distraint call can be a stressful situation for the defaulter who, as a result, may not always react in a rational manner. Although assaults on distraint officers are rare the possibility of such an event cannot be overlooked. The notes on avoiding violence are designed to help you minimise any risk to yourself (DMBM510350).

Your manager is responsible for your personal safety and ensuring you receive appropriate training (DMBM510330).

Preventing wasted calls

You can cut down the number of repeated, abortive or inconclusive calls if you

  • confirm in advance, so far as is possible, that the address is correct
  • call at a time when you can reasonably expect to see the defaulter
  • have evidence that there will be enough effects, for example from a report of personal call
  • are thoroughly familiar with all relevant information from the computer records.

Immediate removal

If the history of the case suggests immediate removal of goods will be desirable you should make prior arrangements with your auctioneer for a removal van or necessary equipment to be available on the day of your distraint call (DMBM655900).