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What to do if you receive a surprise visit from HMRC

  • 26th January 2022

During the pandemic HMRC had paused its debt collection visits, and although the covid pandemic is far from over, HMRC’s bailiff teams are out on the road again.

A visit from a bailiff is always concerning, and potentially damaging to a business’s reputation. What is even more alarming, is that the HMRC field force team (aka bailiffs) can arrive even when there is no outstanding tax debt.

For example - if an amended return has been filed that reduces the tax due, the return may not have been processed by HMRC’s computer due to software problems, although the return will have been acknowledged as received. Therefore you should keep an eye on the tax owing function of your online personal tax account or business tax account. Even if you notice something is not quite right and ring to add a note on to HMRC’S debt management system there is no guarantee the field force team will review this note before visiting.

So what should you do if HMRC bailiffs do turn up unannounced? You should take the following actions:

  1. Don’t let the bailiffs on to the premises – they have no rights of entry under civil law.
  2. If they have entered the property – ask them to leave.
  3. Ask the bailiff to leave the letter from HMRC’s debt management department.
  4. Call your accountant as soon as actions 1 to 3 are done.
  5. Do not let bailiffs take away any business documents or information.

If the HMRC visit is part of a dawn raid under criminal law, you should call a criminal lawyer immediately, as different rules and procedures apply.

This information is taken from the weekly Tax Tips, published by the Tax Advice Network, for which you can subscribe at

Any news or resources within this section should not be relied upon with regards to figures or data referred to as legislative and policy changes may have occurred.