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Tax Collection (Inquiries And Searches)

Volume 889: debated on Monday 24 March 1975

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the circumstances which led to VAT officers on four occasions making inquiries between the hours of 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.; whether they found evidence sufficient to warrant prosecution against the taxpayers concerned; and if he is satisfied that the officers concerned acted reasonably in searching during the night.

In each case the inquiries followed the issue of a search warrant under Section 37(3) of the Finance Act 1972. In two cases criminal proceedings are under consideration by Customs and Excise; in the third case inquiries are continuing and in the fourth case sufficient evidence has now been obtained to warrant prosecution. I am satisfied that in the circumstances of each case execution of the warrant during the night was necessary. In three of these cases police were present when the inquiries were made, and in two of them officials of Inland Revenue were also present.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there have been any cases when VAT officers without a search warrant have interrogated taxpayers between the hours of 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there have been any cases when VAT officers have searched premises without a search warrant.

Customs and Excise have no knowledge of a VAT officer having exercised his powers of inspection of premises and goods by searching premises as such without a warrant or without the trader's consent. There have been, however, isolated cases of the examination of, for example, a wastepaper basket, without the trader's consent. Customs and Excise take appropriate action in any such case.