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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Summary Warrant: Employing a sheriff officer

Authority to engageYou must obtain prior authority from the Debt Management Edinburgh Group Office for the engagement of a sheriff officer. They will issue instructions detailing the area in which the sheriff officer will operate and the conditions of service.

Establishing the VAT status of a sheriff officerOnce authority has been given to a sheriff officer to act for a debt management office the higher debt manager must then establish as to whether or not the sheriff officer is a “taxable person for VAT purposes”.

A “taxable person” is a person who carries on a business or separate businesses that have a taxable turnover or a combined turnover of more than £60,000 a year requiring them to register with HM Revenue and Customs VAT Operations as a “taxable person”.

Whenever there is a change in the amount of taxable turnover, the higher debt manager must check to see if there has been any change to the sheriff officer’s status as a “taxable person”. Any change to the “taxable turnover amount” will be notified to you via either DMB memo or a Newsboard message.

Action to take once the VAT status establishedIf the sheriff officer is a “taxable person for VAT” then the higher debt manager must make a note of his VAT registration number, as this will be required when the monthly statement is prepared.

This is because a sheriff officer who is registered for VAT purposes can charge us VAT in addition to the costs/fees for services provided. The VAT incurred on these costs however can be recovered centrally from HM Revenue and Customs VAT Operations and it should not therefore be charged to the debtor.

If the sheriff officer is not a “taxable person for VAT” then no VAT is chargeable.

Inspection of sheriff officer recordsThe sheriff officer’s books and records of transactions held in respect of the collection of arrears of tax etc may be inspected at any time by the higher debt manager or an officer nominated by that person.

Overall responsibility for arrears referred to the sheriff officerThe higher debt manager retains overall responsibility for arrears of tax etc referred to the sheriff officer for recovery action. The warrant is granted by the sheriff to the sheriff officer but the efficiency, reliability and action taken or to be taken by the sheriff officer is very much the concern of the higher debt manager. Particular attention needs to be paid to cases where the sheriff officer needs to be told to abandon or suspend recovery action. Such action can be done by telephone or by written confirmation.

If the sheriff officer fails to adhere to the requirements of the guidelines for sheriff officers (DMBM670070) with regard to remittances or reports to be made to the debt management office then this must be brought to his attention immediately. If this failure persists then the higher debt manager must make a report to Debt Management Edinburgh Group Office.