Tax and other debts owing to HM Revenue and Customs

If HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) sends you a bill and you think that you are unable to pay off, you should not delay to contact them and enter into some sort of agreement with them. If you fail to make some arrangements, HMRC may initiate a legal process to recover their money.

Options available to you if you can't pay to HMRC

If you are unable to pay the bill amount sent to you by the HMRC, contact the office from where you have received the communication regarding your pending bills. You need to talk to the officials and need to convince them that you can’t pay the bills. If they agree to help you, they can allow you some extra time to help you pay your bill. They can possibly split the entire amount into affordable installments as well.

If you can’t make your payments and couldn’t broker an arrangement as well, HMRC may resort to the following options.


Distraint is the process where your valuables and assets are confiscated and auctioned. The amount realised henceforth is used to pay your bills. The amount is also used to cover the charges of the distraint process. The basic possessions that you need to maintain yours and your family’s lifestyle are not included into the distraint. Also, the essential tools or vehicles that you may need to impart your job are not included in the process.

When you fail to pay your bill, HMRC officials will visit your home or office asking to clear the bills. When you refuse to pay them, they prepare a list of all your possessions. They carry a particular form for the purpose. They tell you to sign this form. If you sign this form, they generally don't take away anything that day and give you a five days time to pay. Even though you don't sign, you get five days’ period to pay but they may start taking away your valuables without delay.

If your possessions fetch more money than what you owe to HMRC, the exceeding amount will be returned to you. But if they fail to manage the amount that you owe to them, the difference amount will again be asked from you.

Court proceedings initiated by HMRC

HMRC can take your matter to a magistrates’ court and initiate a legal proceedings in the following cases:
Your pending amount is £2,000 or less.
The bill is pending with you for a period less than a year.
The court sends you a summon instructing you to appear in the court on the scheduled date for the hearing in the case. The summon details out the description of the amount that you owe to HMRC.

If you want to avoid court proceedings, you will have to pay the amount mentioned in summon. If you think the amount mentioned therein is excessive than what you owe exactly, you can contact HMRC to settle the right bill amount. Magistrates will not do anything on the size of the bill and start proceedings on the bill amount demanded by HMRC.

The magistrate may instruct you to pay for the costs of the court proceedings besides your bill amount. If you refuse to pay, bailiffs will be sent to your home or business to take possession of your valuables.

Proceedings in the County court

HMRC will try to recover their money by any means. First, they try to collect their debt amount through the process of distraint. Next, they go to the magistrate court and start a court proceeding to recover their money. When they fail to recover their money by using both these options, they go to the County court as their next measure to get back their money.

If you don’t want to be part of the legal proceedings at the County court, the best way is to pay the amount demanded by HMRC. If it’s not possible for you to make payments immediately, you can request for a date for making payments within 14 days of receiving summon. Or, you can also request to break down the amount into certain installments.

If the amount mentioned in the form that you received from the County court seems not to be accurate, you may approach the court citing your reasons of disagreement on the demanded amount by the HMRC. If you fail to reply to the County court’s summons, the court may order you to clear the bills of HMRC and will also ask you to pay for the court fees.

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