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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Time To Pay: Time To Pay requests: requests from voluntary sector organisations

Some customers who have difficulty paying their debts contact voluntary sector organisations (intermediaries) for help. These organisations may then contact HMRC on behalf of the customer.

Help and advice given by voluntary sector organisations

The advice given by the voluntary debt advisor will normally consist of three elements

  • an income and expenditure summary - normally called a ‘financial statement’
  • the options that are available to the client
  • a suggested payment plan - if this is an option

Usually the debt adviser will help the client to draw up a detailed income and expenditure summary. The customer may have other debts and the debt advisor will have discussed all of the customer’s debts and will have advised them of their realistic options based on their circumstances. This will usually include payment proposals to be discussed with each creditor. Voluntary sector debt advisors rank HMRC debt among priority debts that should be cleared first. If advisors consider that the only realistic option is bankruptcy then they will tell the customer so.

How to deal with requests from voluntary sector organisations

When speaking to a voluntary sector advisor you must make sure that you have verified the identity of the customer and that they give consent for us to discuss their case with the voluntary sector advisor, see DMBM512810.

As the customer has actively sought help you should assume that they are a “can’t pay” as opposed to “won’t pay”.

You should establish what organisation the customer has contacted and what advice they have been given. Adopt a sympathetic and supportive approach and consider any proposal that is suggested. It is important to remember that the customer has sought help and that the voluntary sector organisation would recommend insolvency if they believed that the customer was unable to clear their debts.

You should confirm that a financial statement has been prepared and if so accept its contents without question. You should use the financial statement as a basis to negotiate payment towards the debt. You should request that a copy of the financial statement be sent to you for you to review.

If, unusually, no financial statement has been prepared then you should question the customer, or the debt advisor if the customer prefers, to obtain the information that you require.

With these cases you should take a pragmatic view and consider both the interests of the customer and the Exchequer.

Mental health cases

You may come across a number of cases where a customer is suffering from a mental health problem. In these cases the initial contact informing us of the mental health issue is likely to come from a third party, such as a doctor or a psychiatric nurse. Organisations such as MIND and Citizens Advice Bureau may also be involved.

For details on how to deal with the case, see DMBM585185.