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Advice for individuals if you can't pay what you owe HM Revenue & Customs

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) expects all customers to make payments when they are due. However they understand that in certain circumstances this may not be possible.

This guide summarises the actions you need to take if you know in advance that your payments to HMRC are going to be late or if you know you are going to have problems making a payment. It also provides links to more in-depth guidance on specific tax/payment types for individuals.

On this page:


What to do when you receive your payment demand

If you find you can't pay your bill the most important thing is not to ignore the demand. If you can't pay straight away, you may be able to come to an arrangement with HMRC.

You should contact the HMRC office that sent you the request for payment right away – you’ll find the contact details on the latest letter you received from them. If you can't find the contact details please refer to the section 'Contacting HMRC' below.

If you ignore your bill HMRC will contact you again anyway. If you continue to ignore it they will take legal action to get the money.


Requesting a payment arrangement

When you contact HMRC you can ask them to consider agreeing to a payment arrangement.

Each case is looked at individually but normally:

  • if you can't pay at once you might be allowed time to pay – either in one lump sum or by instalments (in order to arrange this you may have to give them details of your financial circumstances)
  • if you can't agree a payment arrangement legal action will be taken to collect what you owe
  • if you agree to pay the full amount within the time specified no further action will be required

Note that you can still ask HMRC to consider a payment arrangement even if they contact you first.

Find out what actions could be taken against you if you don't pay what you owe

Information you'll need to supply

If you propose a longer time to pay you may have to give HMRC details of your income, spending, savings and other assets.

Payment arrangement charges

It is important to understand that you will have to pay interest on any late payment, regardless of the length of time in which you agree to pay.

Find out what actions could be taken against you if you don't pay what you owe

Get details of organisations that can help you with debt problems

Go to a table of interest payments

Find out more about late payment of customs duty

Your rights regarding payment arrangements

HMRC will consider any payment arrangement you suggest. If you think they’ve rejected it without considering it properly you can make a complaint but you can't appeal against the decision.

Find out how you can make a complaint against an HMRC decision


Contacting HMRC

If you wish to discuss a payment problem, you should contact HMRC using the number on your payment demand. If you don't have this you can use the numbers below. Alternatively contact your usual Tax Office.

Payment problem contact numbers

Payment Contact number
Tax credit repayments 0845 300 3900
Child Benefit repayments 0845 302 1444
Self Assessment 0845 366 1204

Find a Tax Office


Organisations offering free advice on debt problems

There are a number of organisations providing free, confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems. Follow the link below to find out more.

Information about managing debt from the Directgov website

More useful links

Difficulty repaying overpaid Tax Credits?

Problems with Child Benefit – where to start?

What to do if you can’t pay your Self Assessment tax bill?

Advice if your business can’t pay what it owes HM Revenue & Customs


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