WHAT IS AN HMRC FIELD FORCE VISIT?

If you have business tax debts with HMRC and you have not made any arrangement to settle the debt, you may be visited by an HMRC Enforcement Officer on a Field Force Visit. This is usually because you have not responded to HMRC’s letters and phone calls requesting payment of the debt. HMRC send Enforcement Officers to business premises as an alternative means of chasing the payment.

HMRC Enforcement Officers will initially try to resolve the outstanding debt without taking enforcement action – either by taking payment on the spot or by agreeing a Time To Pay Arrangement.

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WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN HMRC FIELD FORCE VISIT?

There is a process that HMRC Enforcement Officers follow during their Field Force Visits.

Firstly, if your company is in debt with HMRC, has ignored attempts at chasing the payment and has failed to make steps to repay the debt, you will be served with an Enforcement Notice. This can be delivered in person by an HMRC Enforcement Officer, or delivered in the post, via email or fax.

You must either pay the full amount of the debt, or agree a Time To Pay Arrangement, within seven days of receiving the Notice (excluding Sundays and Bank Holidays).

If, after the seven day period, you have failed to pay the debt or agree a Time To Pay Arrangement, an HMRC Enforcement Officer will visit your premises. If you think that the amount you owe is different to what you are being asked for by the Enforcement Officer, they should be able to check your up to date tax position on the spot.

The Enforcement Officer will make a list of goods to be seized from your company that can be sold at a public auction in order to satisfy the debt.

This list forms part of a Control of Goods Agreement, which you will be asked to sign. If you sign it, a further seven day period is offered in which you can pay off the debt. Though, it is important to note that within this time period HMRC has control of the goods. You have no right to sell or move any of the goods included in the agreement. If you sell or move the goods that are under the control of HMRC, this would constitute a criminal offence.

If you refuse to sign the agreement, the Enforcement Officer can arrange for goods to be removed from the premises immediately.

WHAT DOES AN HMRC ENFORCEMENT OFFICER HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO?

Entry

An HMRC Enforcement Officer will carry an identity card on their Field Force Visit that proves that they are indeed an approved HMRC Enforcement Officer. They may work for a private company that has been contracted by HMRC, but they must have an HMRC Enforcement Officer ID. If they are licensed HMRC Enforcement Officers, then they have the right to force entry into premises which are solely commercial, but only if they have been authorised by a Justice of the Peace.

If the premises are part or fully residential, their entry rights are limited to the normal routes, and access may also be limited depending on the type of debt they are collecting and whether children are resident in the property.

It is important to note that if you do not satisfy the debt in the seven days following the signing of the Control of Goods Agreement, HMRC Enforcement Officers have the right to enter the business premises in order to remove the goods included in the agreement. Access cannot be denied. If you refuse access, they can call the police for support in carrying out their duties.

If you have any questions about the rights of HMRC Enforcement Officers and your rights as a business owner, simply get in touch via telephone, email or online live chat. We have years of experience in dealing with HMRC Field Force Visits, so we can give you the advice you need, when you need it.

Property

Normally, a creditor would need a court order in order to seize control of a debtor’s property in order to satisfy a debt. However, HMRC have unique powers which allow them to arrive at business premises unannounced, without a court order, in order to start the process of seizing business assets to repay debts.

However, Enforcement Officers cannot simply turn up to your property unannounced and begin removing property immediately. They must follow the process of allowing you a seven day period to pay the debt, after the Enforcement Notice is sent, before they can make a Control of Goods Agreement. Then, if you sign the agreement, they must allow a further seven day period to pay the debt before they can actually remove any goods.

HMRC Enforcement Officers have the authority to seize goods to the value of the debt, as well as the cost of the enforcement. Goods sold at public auction do not always reach the value that you would hope. So whilst it may appear that Enforcement Officers are taking an excessive number of assets from your business, it is so that they can cover a potential shortfall in the price achieved at auction, and also recover the fees associated with the enforcement process.

Only goods that are the property of the business can be taken by HMRC Enforcement Officers. Items that belong to a third party, or items that are subject to hire purchase or lease agreements (usually vehicles), cannot be taken.

HELP AND ADVICE WITH HMRC FIELD FORCE VISITS AND CONTROL OF GOODS

If you are served with an Enforcement Notice, or you are facing the prospect of an HMRC Field Force visit, contact us ASAP via telephone, email or online live chat. Even if you have not reached this stage, but you are struggling with HMRC debts, you should contact us immediately for help and support.

As licensed insolvency practitioners, we can look into your business finances and decide a best course of action for dealing with the business tax debt.

We can act on your behalf to agree a Time To Pay Arrangement with HMRC and therefore prevent the removal of goods from your premises. We can also look at a number of other options.

We operate nationwide, so no matter where you are located, we can visit you at your office to discuss your case further. Simply get in touch with us ASAP via telephone, email or online live chat.

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