HMRC - I think customs were right to take my items – but I want to get them back

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If HMRC has seized any of your belongings, you can normally ask for them back – even if you think customs seized them correctly.

You can do this by using Resolver to make a ‘restoration request’. If your restoration request is approved by customs, you should get your things back but may have to pay a fee and any duty you owe. 

If customs has already sold or destroyed your items, you may be due some compensation.

If your vehicle has been seized by customs, you have 45 days to collect any belongings you left in it. This should normally be done by sending a letter marked ‘personal property’ to the address on the notice or letter you got from customs.

You’ll need: 

  • The reference number on the notice you got from customs.
  • Your name and address.
  • A list of the things you want back.
  • Proof of ownership.
  • For a vehicle, you’ll need proof of purchase.
  • Import documents (if you have them).

There’s normally no time limit for asking for your things back – although your items may be sold or destroyed after 45 days (unless they’re perishable, in which case they may be sold or destroyed straight away).

You should know
  • You should always try and resolve any problems with HMRC by talking with the person who has been dealing with you first.
  • If this is impossible or has not resolved your issue, you should use Resolver to contact them.
  • HMRC operates a tiered complaints system. Complaints will go through two tiers of service.
  • If you are still unhappy, you can ask your MP to escalate your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman.

If you believe HMRC has not correctly followed procedure, it's always worthwhile to consider contacting them via Resolver. HMRC may offer compensation for any distress, delay, damage caused, or costs incurred by HMRC (such as the cost of having to hire an accountant).

It's worth knowing that HMRC have the right to take enforcement action to reclaim any debts (under certain conditions).

You should be aware, however, that HMRC field agents have no right of seizure. They might take note of the things you have (your assets), but they can't take any on the spot.

HMRC can level penalties for late payment. It's always worth contacting HMRC if you believe you might have been incorrectly penalised (or if serious circumstances stopped you from paying on time). HMRC will often consider any reasons you might have for late payment.

You should try and correct any mistakes with your tax as soon as possible.

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