Increased powers to help Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officials investigate tax crime have been proposed in a consultation paper published today.

Views on whether the department's officers should be able to take fingerprints, charge and bail suspects and search people and premises are requested in the HMRC paper 'Criminal Investigation Powers: A Technical Consultation Document'. It is also proposed that Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act provisions be modified so search warrants and production orders can be obtained when HMRC officials have reasonable grounds to believe an offence is ?about to be committed?, as opposed to ?has been? committed.

The consultation also recommends extending investigatory powers available under PACE to all potential tax and duty crimes. Currently, the HMRC, which was created in 2005 by the merger of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise (HMCE), can use the full set of PACE powers to investigate suspected offences relating to ex-HMCE matters, but not for those related to ex-Revenue matters. Additionally, under the current structure some HMRC officers deal with both criminal and non-criminal investigations, whilst the consultation proposes the creation of a new Criminal Investigation Directorate.

PACE doesn't apply in Scotland, and views are also sought on the provisions that would provide an effective and fully integrated regime that is appropriate for Scotland's legal system.

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