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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

From
HM Revenue & Customs
Updated
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Enforcement action: summary proceedings: hearings and orders in the magistrates' court: if the debtor attends the SP hearing

If the debtor attends the hearing it is likely to be:

  • to dispute the liability
  • to ask for time to pay, or
  • because the summons indicated that attendance was required.

It will be to your advantage to have interviewed the debtor before the hearing, to examine the debtor’s financial position and consider any proposals for payment or to decide whether an adjournment is appropriate.

If the debtor disputes the liability

If the debtor disputes the liability you should:

  • tell the court why the debt is due and payable
  • produce certificates of debt in support of your claim
  • ask for an order for payment forthwith of the debt, interest to the date of the hearing, the fees and £5 costs (DMBM660830)
  • ask the court to order further that, in default of payment, the sum be recovered by distress warrant.

If the debtor asks for time to pay

If the debtor asks for time to pay, you should ask for an order for payment forthwith but if the debtor’s proposals are acceptable:

  • tell the court that you will not seek to enforce the order provided the debtor pays the agreed amounts
  • ask the court to order further that, in default of payment, the sum be recovered by distress warrant.

In exceptional cases the court may, under Section 75 Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980, order payment by instalments.

If you have accepted payment by instalments, or the court has ordered it, on your return to the office you must write to the debtor setting out:

  • the terms of the arrangement
  • what will happen in default.

Obtaining an order for payment

England and Wales

If the court make an order for payment, they will sign the copy minute of order (form SP26B).

If the court will not order enforcement by distress in default of payment, before you hand the SP26B to the court for signature you should delete the final entry ‘Distress…and it was…defendant’s goods’.

Northern Ireland

The court will grant you a decree when they make an order for payment.

Enforcing the order by distress

It will save time and another hearing if you can obtain the court’s order to enforce payment by distress at the same hearing as that in which they make the order for payment. An order to enforce payment by distress is at the magistrates’ discretion. They may refuse your request and require a further hearing. If so, you should accept the court’s decision and apply for a distress warrant in the normal way if the debtor does not pay.

Debtors who cannot speak English

If the debtor requires a translator and no one is readily available who can explain the proceedings to the debtor, you should:

  • request an adjournment
  • make arrangements with a linguist to accompany you to the next court hearing.

A list of linguists in alphabetical order by language can be found on the Intranet site for your area.