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HMRC’s powers to freeze bank accounts

30 January 2023 / Adam Craggs , Alice Kemp
Issue: 4874 / Categories: Comment & Analysis , forfeiture , HMRC powers , Compliance
The big freeze

Key points

  • Under POCA 2002 s 303Z1 to s 303Z8 HMRC can apply to freeze bank accounts and notify the holder of their intention to forfeit all the money in their account.
  • Account freezing orders (AFOs) and forfeiture orders were introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and are often used due to the low evidential threshold and lack of judicial scrutiny.
  • For an AFO to be granted there must be reasonable grounds for suspecting that the money is ‘recoverable property’. The standard of proof is the civil standard of ‘balance of probabilities’.
  • The number of AFOs and FOs/AFNs have increased dramatically since their introduction in 2018.
  • Account holders are entitled to compensation in certain circumstances.

Imagine that an HMRC officer could apply to freeze your bank account based on a suspicion. Imagine that once frozen the HMRC officer could then send you a notice telling you that unless you write and...

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