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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: distraint: carrying out a distraint: identifying the defaulter and introducing yourself


Common sense will dictate the precise sequence of identifying the defaulter and introducing yourself, but you should always make sure before you begin that you are speaking either to the debtor themselves or to someone who knows about the debt.You must also make sure that any discussion takes place in private and cannot be overheard by third parties.

Individuals and partnerships

In individual and partnership cases it is desirable that you see the debtor personally, or failing this, a responsible person (DMBM655760).

Be careful to ensure you identify the correct person if you know there are two people at the same address with the same initials and surname; for example, a father and son.


If you are calling at the premises of a limited company, you should ask to see a person who holds a responsible position in the company such as a:

  • managing director
  • financial director
  • company secretary
  • company accountant.

All cases

Once you are satisfied that you are at the correct address and speaking to the debtor or a responsible person, you should introduce yourself as an officer of HM Revenue and Customs and introduce the bailiff, if you are using one.

You may need to show your identity card but you are not obliged to hand it to the debtor. If the debtor still doubts your identity, they can call the debt collector verification helpline on 0300 200 3862.