HomeSMEs, directors & shareholdersTax disputesAccount Freezing Orders

HMRC are increasingly using Account Freezing orders where they suspect tax maybe at risk or there has been tax evasion or fraud. Our expert team at FWJ can help get the freezing order removed. Speak to one of our experts for a free consultation today.

Our specialist HMRC Account Freezing order team  

No other firm in England has such a unique skill set as our tax team.

  • The team is headed up by litigation and tax Partner Stephen Downie. Stephen is also a qualified accountant and also spent time working at the Insolvency Service.  
  • The team also includes
    • Partner Andy Lynch whose experience prior to joining FWJ included 18 years at HMRC working for their special tax investigations team.
    • Associate Pembe Ramadan who spent 6 years at HMRC as an in house litigator. Pembe is a qualified Civil and Commercial Mediator and has attended over 60 First Tier Tax Tribunals during her career.

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What is an Account Freezing Order (‘AFO’)?

An Account Freezing Order (or “AFO”) is a legal tool used by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), to freeze funds held in bank accounts suspected of being associated with criminal activities such as tax evasion.

Account Freezing Order’s are part of the broader framework of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) and the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Transfer of Funds Regulations 2017, which give HMRC the authority to make such orders.

Account Freezing Orders can also be known as Account Forfeiture Orders or Forfeiture Order. They are slightly different to Civil Recovery Orders or Confiscation Orders which are more criminal based.

How is an account freezing order obtained by HMRC?

An AFO or Account Freezing Order is an order obtained through the courts which freezes assets in cases where HMRC consider that tax maybe at risk.  These applications are normally obtained without notice to the account holder who will usually only find out of the AFO’s existence when they can’t use their accounts or are served with the court papers.

What is the purpose of an Account Freezing Order?

An Account Freezing Order or AFO is designed to secure tax revenue which HMRC consider to be at risk of going unpaid whilst they investigate suspected tax fraud.

Key features of an account freezing order

  • Freezing Assets. An Account Freezing Order allows authorities, such as HMRC, to temporarily freeze the assets in the bank account in question. This prevents the account holder from accessing or withdrawing the funds.
  • Investigation Period. The freezing period typically lasts for 12 months, during which time HMRC or other law enforcement agencies can investigate the source of the funds, whether they are indeed linked to criminal activities and whether there has been any kind of tax evasion or fraud.
  • Civil Proceedings. AFOs are part of civil proceedings, meaning they are not criminal charges.
  • Notification of an account freezing order. Account holders subject to an Account Freezing Order or AFO are typically notified by HMRC and have the opportunity to challenge the order. They can also access legal representation and make representations to the court regarding the frozen funds.

Defending an account freezing order – let us help you

Defending against an Account Freezing Order (AFO) can be a complex and challenging process. But our expert team can help you navigate this process and achieve a successful outcome.

Typical areas we can help you with include

  • Taking prompt action to allow the terms of the AFO to be varied – to enable vital business payments such as rent or payroll to be made whilst the wider problems are resolved.
  • Negotiating with HMRC. Our inhouse expert Andy Lynch spent 18 years at HMRC and knows exactly how it works. There is no one better at negotiating a sensible outcome with HMRC.
  • Making sure any amounts claimed by HMRC are correct. It isn’t uncommon for mistakes to be made by HMRC when it comes to calculating any taxes it thinks are due.
  • Making a formal application to have the Account freezing order dismissed form court. If there is a lack of evidence to support the freezing order being made, our team can apply to have it dismissed.

Paying for legal representation

When we are approached by clients, they are often in the difficult position of not having access to their bank account to pay for the legal advice they need to help deal with the Account Freezing order itself. However, under the terms of the freezing order, HMRC must allow the person or company to pay reasonable legal fees to be paid out of frozen funds. We can make sure HMRC allow this to happen.

Contact our expert tax team today for assistance. If your matter is urgent but is outside our usual office hours, you can call Andy Lynch direct on 07876 447695.

Andy Lynch at FWJ was literally a life saver for me. I ran in to some tax issues with HMRC and I suffer from mental health issues as well so I was a complex case. Andy took his time to professionally and accurately layout my case and assist me with finding a resolution. I researched a lot of tax advisers before making my decision and I am glad I did and relieved that I chose Andy and FWJ.

Chris Kitchen

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Pembe Ramadan

Pembe Ramadan


Andy Lynch

Andy Lynch


Stephen Downie

Stephen Downie


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