Customs seizures and penalties

Customs seizures

When HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) seize goods or vehicles, traders can ask for the goods back, complain about HMRC treatment, or appeal if they disagree. If traders have goods seized by HMRC, they will receive either:

  • a Notice of Seizure through the post if neither the trader nor their agent were present when the goods were seized
  • a Seizure Information Notice (Form C156) handed to the trader or their agent if either was present when the goods were seized

If traders believe the goods were correctly seized by HMRC, the matter will be closed. However, if traders believe that HMRC was incorrect in seizing the goods, or if they want them back, they can take matters further.

Seizure of vehicles

When customs officers seize goods in transit, they can also seize the vehicle that is carrying the goods. Find further information about seizures in Notice 12A.


Traders can appeal against the legality of the seizure of goods by sending a Notice of Claim to HMRC. The notice must be received within one month of the seizure otherwise a trader won't be able to challenge it.

Return of goods

Traders can write to HMRC asking for the return of goods, even if they agree the goods have been legally seized. This process is called restoration. Traders can ask for restoration even after the month's limit for an appeal has passed.

Traders can apply for restoration and make a complaint at the same time.

Making a complaint

HMRC has a complaints procedure that traders can use if they are unhappy about the way they were treated during seizure of the goods. They cannot use this process to complain about the actual seizure of goods - instead, they must complain to their regional complaints unit. If they are still unhappy, they can apply to the Adjudicator. Read more about complaints and putting things right.