A recent Freedom of Information Request to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has revealed that in 2011, HMRC obtained by covert means no fewer than 14,000 records of communications by taxpayers’ in connection with tax enquiries.
The data obtained included texts, email messages and details of websites visited by those under investigation. Strictly, the content of the messages is not available to HMRC until a full interception warrant is obtained. However, the date, time, recipient (or sender) of an email or phone message can be obtained as well as a log of web traffic.
Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 HMRC is entitled to authorise its own surveillance activities. It does not have to suspect criminal activity to undertake surveillance.