HMRC enforcement agents (bailiffs) can take stock and equipment from your business or goods from your home. These items can be sold and the money used to clear your debt, and they can do this for any tax, National Insurance, VAT or tax credit debts. They don’t need to get a court order to do this.
HMRC enforcement agents can use force to enter your business premises, but they must get permission from a court before using force to enter your home. In practice, they rarely use force, and if they can’t get goods from you or agree a payment arrangement, they’re more likely to use another collection method such as making you bankrupt.
County Court action
They could get a County Court judgment (CCJ) against you.
If they apply for a CCJ, you'll be sent some blue and white court forms. You need to fill these in and offer an affordable monthly repayment amount. Find out how to fill in these forms and more about the claims process in our CCJ section.
If you didn't pay the CCJ, they could use enforcement methods such as bailiffs (enforcement agents) or applying for a charging order, to attach the debt to your property.
Magistrates' court hearing
If you owe less than £2,000, HMRC could issue you with a summons to a hearing. You would need to attend this with your business and household budget, to support an offer to pay by instalments.
If you don't keep to these instalments, another hearing would be arranged to decide whether you should be sent to prison. Before this could happen you would need to be found guilty of ‘wilful refusal’ (when you have the ability to pay but refuse on a point of principle) or ‘culpable neglect’ (where you have the money but you've ignored the debt).
The court may decide not to send you to prison but it can't write off your debt.
If you owe more than £750, HMRC could start bankruptcy proceedings against you. You can find more details about how this would work on our bankruptcy from creditors page.
Take money from your wages
If you work for an employer, HMRC can collect a debt by altering your tax code to increase the amount of tax deducted from your wage.
HMRC can do this for debts of up to £3,000 if you earn less than £30,000. If you earn more than this, they can collect larger debts through your tax code, up to a maximum of £17,000 if you earn more than £90,000 a year.