This part of GOV.UK is being rebuilt – find out what beta means

HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: taking control of goods (TCoG): where we cannot take control of goods and list of exempt goods

You must not take control of goods where:

  • the debtor is a child (a person under the age of 16)
  • a child or vulnerable person are the only persons present in the relevant or specified premises in which the goods are located (see DMBM657060 for the definition of premises)
  • the goods are also premises in which a child or vulnerable person are the only persons present (see DMBM657080 regarding entry to a premises).

List of exempt goods

The following goods of the debtor are exempt and may not be seized.

Such clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment, items and provisions as are reasonably required to satisfy the basic domestic needs of the debtor and every member of the debtor’s household including (but not restricted to):

  • a cooker or microwave
  • a refrigerator
  • a washing machine
  • a dining table large enough, and sufficient dining chairs, to seat the debtor and every member of their household
  • beds and bedding sufficient for the debtor and every member of their household
  • one landline phone, or if there is no landline phone at the premises, a mobile or internet phone which may be used by the debtor or a member of their household
  • any item or equipment reasonably required for either:
    • the medical care of the debtor or any member of their household
    • safety in the dwelling-house
    • the security of the dwelling-house (for example, an alarm system) or for security in the dwelling-house (such as a safe)
  • sufficient lamps, stoves or other appliance designed to provide lighting and heating facilities, to satisfy the basic heating and lighting needs of the debtor’s  household
  • any item or equipment reasonably required for the care of:
    • a person under the age of 18
    • a disabled person
    • an older person (someone over 65)
  • assistance dogs (including guide dogs, hearing dogs and dogs for disabled persons), sheep dogs, guard dogs or domestic pets
  • a vehicle on which a valid disabled person’s badge is displayed because it is used for, or in relation to which, there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, the carriage of a disabled person
  • a vehicle (whether in public ownership or not) which is being used for, or in relation to which there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, police, fire or ambulance purposes
  • a vehicle displaying a valid British Medical Association badge or other health emergency badge because it is being used for, or in relation to which there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is used for, health emergency purposes
  • goods of the debtor which are also premises and are occupied as the only or principal home.

The regulations also exempt any items or equipment (for example, tools, books, phones, computer equipment and vehicles) which are necessary for use personally by the debtor in their employment, business, trade, profession, study or education. However, this exemption does not apply to HMRC provided you list all other seizable items (including non-necessary tools and equipments of trade) before exempt items are seized and proportionality is observed. Regulation 4(2) (iv) of The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 apply.

In addition to goods exempt under TCEA07 regulations, you should not seize goods which are:

  • subject to hire purchase, conditional sale, lease or sale agreement
  • subject to retention of title
  • hired out to a defaulter
  • leased or subject to a ‘sale or return’ agreement
  • subject to a fixed charge in favour of a third party such as a Bank, as security for a loan, debenture or mortgage
  • subject to a genuine Bill of Sale (but where the debtor is still using the asset, such as a vehicle, and claims it is owned by a third party; and where the Bill of Sale is registered)
  • already seized by another creditor; but if there are sufficient unseized goods, take control of them
  • those in which the defaulter has a life interest only
  • fixtures and fittings which cannot be removed without damaging the fabric of the building (an example of this is a car lift which is bolted and concreted into the building)
  • meters, fittings and other apparatus which belong to the gas, electricity or water authorities
  • safety equipment such as a fire extinguisher, fire blanket, safety gate, or fire guard.

Also, you should not seize relevant goods on the highway, or vehicles containing them, if to do so would:

  • pose a risk to public health
  • mean you, as EA, are or should be aware of that risk.

‘Relevant goods’ are:

  • animals or livestock (including cattle, sheep, pigs, horses and poultry)
  • hazardous or perishable goods or material.

‘Hazardous goods or materials’ includes:

  • nuclear matter
  • radioactive waste
  • articles or substance that have been and remain contaminated (whether radioactively or chemically).

Note: Previously, under common law, we could not seize livestock or perishable goods (which cannot be restored in the same condition as when seized) such as fruit, vegetables, growing crops or dairy products). Under TCoG the only restriction is where they are on the highway; the implication being that we can seize them elsewhere. If you intend to seize such goods then contact your manager to discuss.