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HMRC internal manual

Self Assessment Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Debt and Return pursuit: overview: introduction


Taxpayers are expected to pay tax and submit tax returns by the appropriate payment due date or filing date and are encouraged to pay amounts or file their tax returns promptly, on or before their due dates. This is done by the issue of

  • A taxpayer statement which includes a reminding message, together with

    • SA303 ‘Claim to reduce Payments on Account’ insert issued with the December statement


  • A reminder form SA309A / SA309B/ SA309E Tax Return and/or Payment Reminder as a prompt, before the date the return or debt is due where the return or debt is outstanding
  • Form SA309C Payment Reminder where the return has been filed but not captured

When taxpayers fail to pay or submit their tax returns on time

When taxpayers fail to pay or submit their tax returns on time it is essential to take prompt action to pursue the debt and / or return. From April 2011, for returns for 2010-11 and later, late filing penalties are no longer capped. The SA computer system will automatically issue a reminder letter for appropriate cases

  • A filing and payment reminder SA309A, will be issued in December after the paper filing date (31 October), as there is still time to file an online return and avoid an automatic late filing penalty
  • A filing reminder SA309B, will be issued in December for partnerships where the return has not yet been received
  • A payment reminder SA309C, will be issued after the paper filing date (31 October) when a return has been received but may not be fully captured before payment becomes due on 31 January
  • From February 09 onwards, a strongly worded payment reminder letter SA359 will be issued in February where an amount due on 31 January remains overdue. An automatic note will be made on SA


  • SA-RITA500 where a debt only is overdue, except in February when a SA359 is issued instead. An automatic note will be made on SA

Note: Form SA309B was not issued in December 2009 or December 2010 but was reintroduced from December 2011.

If a reminder letter is not appropriate or a reminder is issued and the debt or return remains due, the SA computer system sends the outstanding debt and return cases to Debt Management and Banking (DMB) for recovery action.

Before 3 January 2006 the SA computer support enabled you to identify and pursue taxpayers that had outstanding debts and / or returns. The computer created a work item on the W008 ‘Outstanding Debt and/or Return’ work list for pursuit action where certain criteria was met.

From 3 January 2006, the majority of outstanding debt and / or return work items were cutover into the Integrated Debt Management System (IDMS).

IDMS SA Debt and Return recovery and enforcement was, for the majority of cases, an IDMS automated process where IDMS out sorted the work items and either

  • Passed them to the Debt Management Telephone Centre (DMTC) for a telephone call
  • Issued automatic IDMS reminder letters, determinations and enforcement warning letters
  • Passed them to the Debt Technical Office (DTO) for clerical review

Overdue debt and return cases are segmented within IDMS into various work areas referred to as ‘DMB campaigns’. Each campaign is then managed independently giving DMB greater flexibility and the ability to work each campaign differently.

IDMS sorts work items in accordance with the campaign requirements and either

  • Issues an IDMS99 debt and / or return automatic letter specific to the campaign
  • Passes to Debt Management Telephone Centre (DMTC) for a phone call
  • Passes to the appropriate campaign Debt Technical Office for clerical review

For further details about DMB campaigns please refer to the Debt Management and Banking (DMB) Intranet site, DMB Campaigns.

For further details about IDMS, please refer to the IDMS website on the Intranet or the IDMS User Guide (IDMSUG).

For more information about SA debt and return management see the Debt Management & Banking Manual (DMBM515000).