‘Bugging’ powers for tax inspectors

Taxpayers face the threat of having their telephones tapped and their homes
bugged, following new surveillance powers being granted to
HM Revenue & Customs tax inspectors.

HMRC said inspectors needed such covert surveillance to tackle the growing
threat from organised and white-collar crime.

According to The Times,
the move has been condemned by lawyers and accountants, who have argued that it
breaches human rights rules.

The paper quoted
Harry Travers, a
solicitor who specialises in defending clients targeted by HMRC as saying the
new powers were a possible breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

‘A number of Customs and Excise prosecutions have spectacularly collapsed in
recent years due to the abuse by officers of their powers, not because their
powers were inadequate,’ Travers said.

A spokesman for HMRC said giving tax inspectors the power to tap phones and
plant bugs was a rational move after the merger of Customs and the Inland
Revenue in 2005.

Further reading:

HMRC hands ‘Monaco Millionaires’ a lifeline

HMRC indulges in desk clutter ‘madness’

Tax filing strike fear for 31 January

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