The Tax Office Snoop On Tax Payers 14,000 Times A Year.
HMRC are regularly authorised to view taxpayer’s personal data. In 2011, 14,381 items of “communications data” were viewed by HMRC, 3000 more than the previous year. In 2012 there was a slight drop in the number of items authorised for viewing. The data that can be looked at includes a record of websites individuals have visited, where mobile phone calls were made and the date and time of e mails, texts and phone calls.
HMRC use the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to legitimise their monitoring of tax payers and report that they only view personal data when tax evasion is suspected. There is no clear way of knowing how many times this type of surveillance has led to successful prosecution for tax evasion. It is also unclear whether those who are found to be not guilty are told how they have been investigated.
Despite wide public support for the Government’s current pursuit to tackle tax evasion, the use of surveillance powers by HMRC is likely to raise concerns regarding invasion of people’s privacy.
HMRC will not reveal how many times they have been allowed to carry out the interception of private e mails or how often they have been given warrants to listen to people’s phone calls, film their homes or bug properties or vehicles. This, the most intrusive type of surveillance carried out by the tax office, must be authorised by the Home Secretary.
While many will question of what use some of the communications data collected will be to HMRC, the tax office insists that accessing communications data has helped prevent millions of pounds worth of tax evasion.