HMRC sets record straight on phone tapping

Urgent moves have been made by HM Revenue & Customs to ease concerns
among taxpayers and advisers who feared that tax inspectors could be granted
powers to tap phone lines and bug offices.

In the second round of consultation on HMRC’s criminal investigation powers,
the taxman responded to concerns that powers, including the authority to issue
search warrants and make arrests, would be used to pursue civil cases.

HMRC confirmed that such powers would only be used in specific criminal cases
by specially trained units.

‘Criminal investigation powers are only available to the specialist teams in
HMRC who undertake criminal investigation work. They are not available to other
HMRC staff undertaking routine assurance or compliance work,’ the taxman said in
its latest consultation document.

‘HMRC has reorganised recently to ensure a clear separation between the
criminal investigation work and all its other responsibilities which affect the
vast majority of taxpayers.’

John Whiting, tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the move by HMRC
had provided a ‘clearer understanding of where things are at’.

‘HMRC is still tasked with investigating some serious crimes and it needs
criminal powers. What we are pleased about is that these powers have now been
clearly ring-fenced,’ he said.

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