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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: country court proceedings: the defendant’s response to the claim: discontinuance of proceedings before judgment

Discontinuing potentially exposes you to costs being awarded against you and may make it necessary to apply to the court for permission to make another claim against the defendant. Proceedings may be discontinued after service of the claim form but before judgment is obtained for a variety of reasons. For example:

  • the wrong defendant may be named in the action (and you cannot correct the claim to show the correct defendant)
  • an error is discovered invalidating the proceedings themselves
  • the charge on which the proceedings are based is technically invalid (this does not mean that the tax is discharged before judgment, in which case the claim should be withdrawn)
  • proceedings should never have been taken.

The defendant (or the defendant’s solicitor) may also ask you to formally discontinue an action, most commonly when the judgment debt has been fully paid.

Do not discontinue proceedings lightly and never to overcome a situation which is simply inconvenient. The only time that this action should be taken is where there is an error that cannot be rectified by some other course of action, or where the institution of proceedings was clearly misguided in the first place.

You should consider whether it would be more appropriate to advise the court that you are withdrawing from the action rather than formally discontinuing.


The debt manager should personally:

  • authorise the discontinuance of proceedings
  • provide instructions as to how to proceed.