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HMRC Bailiffs: What Are Their Rights?

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We can help with serious company debts, HMRC and creditor pressure, VAT/PAYE/Tax arrears, cashflow problems and raising finance.

HMRC Bailiffs: What Are Their Rights and What Can Bailiffs Take from My Business?

Owing HMRC money can pose a serious problem for your business but there seems to be some amount of confusion as to just how they can collect on those debts. We are often asked about HMRC bailiffs. “What are their rights and what can they take from my business?” This is actually a complicated issue because technically, there is no such thing as an HMRC bailiff! HMRC field officers and bailiffs acting on instruction from HMRC are two different entities and bailiff rights are limited. Before working yourself into a frenzy over what a bailiff can do when he or she shows up on your doorstep, understand bailiff rights and how bailiff companies work.

What Exactly Are Bailiffs? Do They Work for HMRC?

Technically, if a representative from HMRC arrives at your place of business this will probably be a field officer. If a bailiff shows up with a distraint notice, this is an individual who works for bailiff companies which have been hired by HMRC to represent them. The answer then to that question is an emphatic “No! Bailiffs are not employed directly by HMRC.” They work for bailiff companies. County courts however employ bailiffs, but they would not be sent out on behalf of HMRC. In terms of unpaid council business rates, bailiff rights still don’t exceed what HMRC bailiffs can do. So what then can a bailiff do?

The Duties and Responsibilities of a Bailiff

Contrary to the popular understanding of what bailiffs can do, their rights are rather limited. For example, they cannot force their way into your place of business and they certainly cannot threaten or humiliate you in front of customers or clients. They should never represent themselves as being authorised as an official representative of HMRC unless they are an actual field officer. If you ask them to leave, they must. Only a court order can give them access to your premises if you deny them entry. In contrast, HMRC field officers can and will seize property to sell at a public auction to be compensated for tax and PAYE arrears.

Do HMRC Bailiffs Rights Authorise Them to Seize Property?

We are often asked, “What can bailiffs take from my business?” The laws pertaining to this are quite unclear to the average person, but the short answer is that if they attempt to take anything from the premises without the proper authorisation, they can be found guilty of harassment. According to The Administration of Justice Act, even HMRC bailiffs are governed by standards of behaviour pursuant to an implied contract between the state and citizens, inclusive of business owners and directors.

It has long been known that HMRC will issue a distraint notice and attempt to recover unpaid taxes by any means within their power. Nonetheless, HMRC bailiffs’ rights (not field officers) only extend so far. If you are having problems with a bailiff or field officer, contact Real Business Rescue immediately. We have been known to be on location before they can remove anything in order to help you protect what you have worked so hard to build. Whether your company owes taxes or, as is often the case, have been confused with another business, we can provide assistance when dealing with HMRC bailiffs. Our insolvency specialists can help mediate an otherwise disastrous situation, so don’t hesitate to call.


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