Appealing a decision where Customs have seized something from you

Your dealings with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will normally be routine. But there may be occasions when you disagree with a decision made by HMRC. If this happens, you may be able to challenge the decision.

This guide explains what you can do if you don't agree with HMRC's decision made on or after 1 April 2009 about the return of things seized, sometimes called 'restoration'.

It may be possible to reach an agreement with HMRC. But if you can't agree, your first step is to ask for a review by HMRC. If you don't agree with HMRC's review decision you then have a right of appeal to an independent tribunal.

On this page:

How to apply to have an HMRC decision reviewed

If HMRC refuses to return things they have seized, or imposes conditions on the return, you have the right to have the decision reviewed if you disagree with it.

You will need to request a review in writing - and send it to the address on the decision letter - within 45 days of HMRC's decision.

HMRC will dispose of things that are perishable (for example, tobacco, beer and food products) as quickly as possible. They will normally begin to dispose of non-perishable things (for example, vehicles and spirits) 45 days after the date of seizure unless a review request has been received.

If HMRC decide things can be returned to you, but have in the meantime have disposed of them they will normally offer you an appropriate payment instead.

What do HMRC mean when they talk about a 'linked decision'?

They mean a customs and excise decision (other than the seizure of things) which would normally follow the optional review process under 'What to do if you disagree with an HMRC decision - indirect tax' , see the link below. But where the customs and excise decision is linked to a restoration decision which is being reviewed you must follow the procedures shown in this guidance.

What to do if you disagree with an HMRC decision - indirect tax

Challenging the legality of a seizure

Requesting a review of HMRC's decision about whether to return things they have seized is not the same as challenging the seizure itself. You can find out more information on how to challenge the legality of things seized in HMRC's Notice 12A.

What you can do if things are seized by Customs (Notice 12A)

Information you will need to provide with your review request

HMRC will need the following information from you:

  • your (or your business) name
  • your reference number (as shown on the decision letter)
  • the decision you want reviewed
  • an explanation of what you disagree with and why

Late requests for a review

If you ask for a review after the 45-day period has passed, HMRC will still carry out a review if you have a reasonable excuse why your request was late.

You will need to give HMRC an explanation of why your review request has been sent in after the 45-day period and show that you sent the review request as soon as you could.

If HMRC does not think your explanation is reasonable they will write and tell you why. If you wish, you can then ask the tribunal to decide whether HMRC should carry out a review. For more information about applications to the tribunal, see the section below: 'Appealing to the First-tier Tribunal'.

What happens during the review and how long does it take?

HMRC will appoint an officer, who has not previously been involved with the decision, to carry out a review of the decision.

The review must be completed within 45 days.

If during the review, you have further information that you think might affect HMRC's decision, you should send it to the review officer.

When the review has been completed the review officer will write and tell you their decision.

If HMRC does not complete their review within 45 days the original decision will stand, and you may appeal to the tribunal. See 'Appealing to the First-tier Tribunal' below for how to do this and the time limit that applies.

Reviews where you are also challenging the legality of the seizure

If you have also challenged the legality of the seizure by sending HMRC a Notice of Claim and are waiting for it to be heard in court, you can still ask for a restoration decision to be reviewed in the meantime.

If you lose the challenge against the legality of the seizure, HMRC will still complete any review of the restoration decision you have asked for.

If you don't agree with the review conclusions

If you disagree with the review officer's decision - including the amount of any payments you may be asked to make to have your things returned to you - you can appeal to the tribunal. The tribunal may ask HMRC to carry out another review if it thinks the decision is unreasonable. For more information about appealing to the tribunal see section below: 'Appealing to the First-tier Tribunal'.


Appealing to the First-tier Tribunal

If you want to appeal to the tribunal, you must do so within 30 days of the letter from HMRC telling you of the review decision (or within 75 days of the date you requested the review if HMRC do not send you the review decision within the 45 day review period).

You cannot appeal to the tribunal until HMRC has completed the review or the 45 day review period has ended.

Appealing to the Tax tribunal (Opens new window)

Tribunals appeal forms are available from the Justice website (Opens new window)


Getting someone to act on your behalf

You don't have to deal with HMRC personally. An accountant or other adviser can act on your behalf.

Authorising an accountant to deal with HM Revenue & Customs for you


What to do if you want to provide further information

If at any time, you have further information that you think might affect HMRC's decision you should send it to the review officer at the address shown on your decision letter.


More useful links

What you can do if things are seized by HMRC

Make a complaint to HM Revenue & Customs

What to do if you can't pay your tax bill

HMRC decisions - what to do if you disagree factsheet (PDF 56K)