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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Enforcement action: county court proceedings: attachment of earnings orders (AEOs): enforcement by attachment of earnings order (AEO)

Attachment of earnings orders

Where a judgment debt is in arrears and the debtor is in PAYE employment, or is in receipt of an occupational pension subject to PAYE, you can make an application to the court to order the judgment debtor’s employer, or pension provider, to make deductions from the judgment debtor’s earnings/pension. If the court makes an order, the employer/pension provider has to make deductions, at weekly or monthly intervals (or whenever they are paid), until the judgment debt is satisfied. This is known as ‘attaching’ the debtor’s earnings/pension.

The court may also, in some circumstances, make an AEO without application from a judgment creditor. For example, to secure payments under an administration order or at the hearing of a judgment summons.

For ease, the term ‘employer’ is used throughout the rest of the ‘Attachment of Earnings Order’ section of this guidance when referring to either an employer or occupational pension provider.

CCBC cases

If your claim has been made through the CCBC then you need to transfer the case to the local court before taking this method of enforcement.

How an AEO works

An AEO tells the employer

  • the total debt owed by the judgment debtor
  • the amount of the weekly or monthly deductions to be made by the employer (‘the normal deduction rate’)
  • the amount below which the court considers that the judgment debtor’s earnings should not be reduced, in order to allow judgment debtors to support themselves and any dependants (‘the protected earnings rate’).

In fixing the protected earnings rate, the court considers the amount the judgment debtor would receive in state benefits if unemployed. If the judgment debtor has a large family and low earnings, the normal deduction rate is likely to be fairly modest.

At each payday the employer is ordered to

  • set aside the employee’s protected earnings (earnings will not be reduced below this level - Section 6(5)(b) Attachment of Earnings Act 1971)
  • calculate the employee’s attachable earnings (DMBM667530)
  • deduct the amount specified in the order
  • pay the remainder to the employee.

The employer sends the money deducted periodically to the court to be paid over to you.