What to do if you have received a seized goods letter

Updated: 23rd July 2021

What is a Seized Goods Letter?

When goods are seized by government agencies, including HM Revenue and Customs and Border Force, a notification of seizure should be issued that identifies the items concerned. If some of your goods have been seized in this way, the type of seized goods letter you receive will depend on whether or not you were present at the time.

A common seizure information notice which you may have received is a Notice 12a which applies to the seizure of things, such as goods and vehicles, under section 139 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. 

  • If you weren’t present, a Notice of Seizure should be sent through the post
  • If you or someone representing you were there when the goods were seized, a Seizure Information Notice (form C156) should have been handed out 

Both of these letters detail your rights of appeal against seizure of the goods in question.

Seized Goods Letters are used to notify the seizure of items that were in the postal system, as well as those being brought into the country through Customs.

Goods, cars and other vehicles can be seized by HMRC and Border Force, in addition to the vehicle(s) used to transport items.

What are your options when you receive a Seized Goods Letter?

If you accept that you broke the rules by importing these goods and wish to have them returned, you can make a restoration request. If accepted by the authorities, you will probably need to pay a fee plus any duty necessary on the items.

Although HMRC and Border Force both have authority to seize goods in this way, they are separate government bodies. For this reason, you should carefully check the details contained in your letter to establish which organisation you need to contact.

Challenging the seizure of goods

When you don’t agree with the seizure of your items by HMRC or Border Force, you have the right to challenge the legality of their actions within one calendar month of the seizure date.

You’ll need to complete a Notice of Claim detailing the items concerned, why you are making a challenge, and if a vehicle was seized, provide proof that you are the owner.

Once the Notice of Claim has been received, the body concerned begins ‘condemnation proceedings’ in court. Here it is decided whether or not their actions were legal - it is not action taken against you as the owner of the goods, but does require your attendance at the court hearing.

You’ll need to swear on oath that you own these goods, and explain why you think it was wrong to seize them. The authority concerned presents their evidence, and a decision is then made by the court.

Real Business Rescue has vast experience of dealing with seized goods issues, and can provide the professional guidance you need. We have offices around the country, and can quickly establish your best options. With 100 offices across the UK, you’re never far away from expert and confidential advice.

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