Customs & excise - seized items

Customs officers have the right to seize any items in the UK if either the excised goods (such as tobacco or alcohol) if duty has not been paid on them properly, if the items are restricted or banned in the UK or if customs laws or regulations have been broken. The Border Force deals with seizure in the UK.

What happens when your items are seized?

If your items are seized when you are present, the reason for the seizure must be explained to you and you will receive a 'seizure information notice' which is a list of the items which have been seized. If you are not present when your things are seized then you will receive a 'notice of seizure' through the post which gives you information like: who carried out the seizure, the reason and legal grounds for which they carried out the seizure and a list of all the items that have been seized.

You then have different options depending on whether or not you believe the seizure was right. If you know or believe that the seizure was right and you do not want the items back then nothing further need be done and the items will be disposed of.

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Challenge a customs & excise seizure

If you do not believe the seizure was right then you can challenge this. As the owner of your items you can challenge the legality of customs for taking your things by sending a notice of claim in writing to HM Revenue & Customs, this should include: your name and address, any customs reference you have been given and the reason for which you believe customs were wrong to seize your items. You must send this to ensure it is received by HMRC within one month of the seizure because after this month they can dispose of the items by law.

Whether you believe the seizure was right or not you can still write to HMRC asking for your things back. This process is called restoration. In your letter you should include: your name and address, any customs reference, any proof of ownership for the items (eg. receipts) and the reason for which you think the items should be given back to you. If they decide not to return your items to you, you can then ask for the decision to be reviewed.

How can we help?

At Stephensons we are able to assist those who have had goods seized throughout all stages of proceedings; we can help our clients write and send their notice of claim, write and send their restoration letter and can also help with any complaints or claims of unfair treatment by HMRC.

We have been successful in securing the return of:

  • jewellery, including high value watches,
  • antiquities,
  • vehicles and aircraft.

It is important to consult a solicitor at the earliest stage possible to ensure you have the best chance of your items being returned.

For any extra information please call us on 0203 816 9274 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.

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