Taxman given intercept go-ahead

Plans to give inspectors the power to intercept telephone calls and emails
are to get the go-ahead, after the proposals were featured in last week’s
serious crimes bill.

The powers, originally intended to assist the war against terror and extended
to deal with organised crime and drug barons, are to be given to tax inspectors
early, rather than in the next finance bill, as had been expected.

The move has raised fears that the powers could be used against ordinary
taxpayers. The decision was revealed by wire tapping commissioner Sir Paul
Kennedy, an appeal court judge.

Kennedy, delivering his first report on the use of powers made available
under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, said the new powers for HM
Revenue & Customs reflected the fact that serious crime gangs were sometimes
operating in their area.

Kennedy added: ‘HMRC believes that where the threshold of serious crime is
crossed, and it is necessary and proportionate to do so, it is appropriate to
use interception.’

The intercept powers are one of a host of changes to the way in which Revenue
inspectors operate following their merger with Customs, which has traditionally
had stronger powers.

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