If you have had something seized by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), you can challenge the seizure and apply to have it returned. This applies to any type of goods, including vehicles.
On this page:
Customs officers have the right to seize things within in the UK if any of the following apply:
HMRC is no longer responsible for seizure at the UK border of things brought into the UK from the European Union or outside the EU. This is dealt with by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
If you are present at the time your things are seized, the reason for the seizure will be explained to you and you will be handed a 'Seizure Information Notice' (Form C156) which lists the seized items.
If you are not present when your things are seized, you will receive a 'Notice of Seizure' through the post that tells you who carried out the seizure, the legal grounds on which this has been done and lists the items that have been seized.
Once your things are seized, you have the following options:
If you are unhappy about how you were personally dealt with by HMRC, you can make a complaint. See section below 'Making a complaint'.
You may want to consult a solicitor before deciding what course of action to take.
As the owner of the things you can challenge the legality of their seizure by sending a 'Notice of Claim' in writing to HMRC. If you are writing you should include:
The notice must be received within one month of the seizure and there can be no extension to this time limit because it is set by the law.
To find out more about challenging a seizure and to find an example 'Notice of Claim' see Notice 12A 'What you can do if things are seized by HMRC'.
You can write to HMRC asking for the return of your things even if you agree they were seized legally. This process is called restoration.
When writing you should include:
If you are asking for your things back because you believe they were not legally seized, that is not a valid reason for requesting restoration. Instead you must challenge the seizure using the process described in the paragraph above.
To find out more about getting your things back, or to find an example restoration request letter, see section 4 of Notice 12A 'What you can do if things are seized by HMRC'.
If HMRC decides not to return seized things to you or imposes conditions on their return, for example payment of a fee, you have the right to have the decision reviewed.
If you are unhappy about the way you have been treated during seizure of things, HMRC has a complaints procedure you can use.
If you need more information about seized things, you can contact the VAT Helpline or the Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries.