As failure to comply with tax regulation is construed a criminal offence, the HMRC officials are endowed with criminal investigation authority to counter such acts. In particular the HMRC has the power to:
Apply for court orders to force individuals and companies to produce relevant records
Apply for warrants to conduct searches
Conduct searches of suspects and premises after arrests have been made
These criminal investigator powers are however only conferred to specially trained officers who mostly form part of teams which engage in operational aspects of criminal investigations. The powers conferred to such officers are generally speaking, on par with that of police officers holding an equivalent rank. Similar to the administrative processes in the police, HMRC officers can only obtain various authorisations from their senior officials, with the minimum level of requirement for authorisation being the grade of Senior Officer. Various UK Legislation also makes provision for criminal investigation authority to be extended anywhere within the UK, with a number of mutual assistance agreement extending outside of the UK.
When more serious crimes are being investigated, the HMRC may apply to make use of intrusive surveillance techniques and methods, which can include interception of telecommunications and post as well as property interference among others. However, due to their intrusive nature, such operations can only be personally sanctioned by the Home Secretary and must at all times follow the strictest of protocols as is overseen by the Interception of Communications Commissioner.
There are however also many safeguards against the use of the HMRC’s criminal investigation powers, which can only be enacted when it is a criminal and not a civil matter. All activities are also subject to review by the Internal Auditing directorate and is externally overseen an external competent authority. In the event of any grievances arising from the HMRC’s activities, completes may be levelled against them to the Ombudsman, the Adjudicator or the Independent Police Complaints Commission.