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Tax Inspectors

Volume 455: debated on Friday 26 January 2007

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what powers tax inspectors have to conduct intrusive surveillance; and if he will make a statement. (110785)

HMRC may apply to use certain surveillance powers including intrusive surveillance when tackling serious crime related to ex-Customs and Excise matters. These powers can only be used for investigations into serious crime, and then only where it is necessary and proportionate. The use of intrusive surveillance powers requires the approval of an independent Surveillance Commissioner.

The Serious Crime Bill introduced in the House of Lords on 16 January 2007 includes provisions that would make intrusive surveillance available to HMRC for tackling serious crime related to ex-Inland Revenue matters. There would be no changes to the power itself or the accompanying safeguards for citizens—the same strict legal tests would have to be passed before the power could be used. Under the provisions in the Serious Crime Bill only specifically authorised officers engaged in investigating into serious tax crime can apply to use the power; intrusive surveillance can only be used in certain criminal investigations. It cannot be used by tax inspectors or any other HMRC officer for routine civil compliance work, for example checking tax returns.