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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: distraint: carrying out a distraint: walking possession


Once you have seized and impounded goods it is vital that you maintain clear and indisputable possession until the goods are sold. Possession may be physical, by

* removing the goods immediately DMBM655900
* leaving someone to guard the goods until they can be removed DMBM655910
* locking them away on the premises out of the debtor’s control DMBM655910

Or it may be where the goods are left on the debtor’s premises while the debtor agrees that you have walking possession of them.

Walking possession

When you have levied distraint you should normally invite the debtor to ask you for walking possession (WP), which means that you retain possession of the distrained goods but leave them on the defaulter’s premises, provided that they sign the WP agreement on form C204 or C204a.

You are not bound to agree to grant walking possession at all; if you wish to remove the goods immediately you should do so.

It is important that walking possession is only granted where you are satisfied that the agreement will be honoured and that distrained goods will not be altered, removed or otherwise disposed of. 

If you decide to allow WP, the defaulter or responsible person must read and agree to the terms of the agreement and sign and date the form C204 or C204a (and copies). Where you accept the signature of a responsible person, you must obtain the defaulter’s counter-signature to the WP agreement as soon as possible and in any case within 24 hours.

You should not make any amendments to the wording of the WP agreement

When the agreement has been signed, give a copy of the form C204 to the defaulter.

Although the WP fee may be payable for a maximum of 15 days including the day of your distraint (Direct taxes) or a flat fee of £7 (Indirect taxes), the WP agreement remains in force for as long as you choose not to remove the goods.