Goods seized by HMRC/UK Border Force

Cigarette and tobacco smuggling has been successfully deployed by criminal organizations to raise funds for many years and the extremes to which individuals will go to in order to evade the authorities are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

The UK Border Force took over the role of Customs at airports and ports throughout the UK. The law remained unchanged but the switch did involve the handing over of responsibility from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to the UKBF for seizures and investigations found in possession of excise goods at ports. Inland seizures are still be dealt with by HMRC.

If your goods have been seized by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) or the UK Border Force, you can challenge the seizure and apply to have your goods returned. You should have been issued with either:

  • A Notice of Seizure (sent to you if you or your agent, if you were not present when the thing was seized); or
  • A Seizure Information Notice on form C156 (handed to you or your agent if HMRC seized the thing in your or their presence).

The reason for the seizure should have been explained to the person present at the time of seizure. When customs officers seize goods in transit they can also seize the vehicle that is carrying the goods.

If you are stopped when the good are seized you may be interviewed by the officer.

If you intend to challenge the seizure, then you have the following options:

  • Ask HMRC in writing to return the seized item(s) to you, even if you accept that HMRC or UK Border Agency had a legal right to seize it. This is called Restoration. There is a separate appeals process for people who are dissatisfied with decisions about returning things. This involves an internal review, followed by a right to appeal to an independent Tribunal; or
  • Challenge the legality of the seizure by sending HMRC or UK Border Force a Notice of Claim. This effectively will lead to the commencement of ‘Condemnation’ proceedings in the Magistrates Court. These are civil proceedings in which the Court will decide whether your goods should be forfeited, or returned to you.

Goods can be imported from EU states legally without paying duty where they are for personal use, or as gifts, and this is the most common basis for arguing that the seizure was not lawful.

We have experience of managing negotiations for the return of goods under the Restoration regime and can assist in contesting the legality of the seizure and negotiating with HMRC to return the seized item(s) in the meantime. Prompt action is of utmost importance where goods have been seized and time limits do apply after which you may not be able to get your items back.

We also deal with Condemnation proceedings at court and are able to provide expert advice that is cost effective and prompt.

HAVE YOUR GOODS BEEN SEIZED BY HMRC or UK BORDER Force? Please contact our Daniel Bonich who will be happy to help and is able to provide clear advice and information to assist you.