HMRC is responsible for investigating crime involving all of the taxes and other regimes it deals with. It is not responsible for criminal prosecutions. The decision whether to bring a criminal prosecution is made by an independent prosecuting authority. In England and Wales this is the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO). In Northern Ireland it is the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland. In Scotland it is the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Four directorates in HMRC have staff authorised to use criminal investigation powers:-
This directorate is responsible for most criminal investigations and the guidance deals mainly with their work.
Internal Governance is responsible for undertaking civil and criminal internal investigations; however the criminal investigation team is separate to the civil team.
This directorate is responsible for detecting individuals and organisations who try to evade HMRC controls both at the border and inland and disrupting their activities. If the activity uncovered merits criminal investigation, Detection will (depending on the nature of the offence) hand over responsibility for the investigation to HMRC’s Criminal Investigation Directorate, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency or an appropriate police force. Detection uses the criminal investigation powers where appropriate alongside powers available in other legislation such as the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
The Risk and Intelligence directorate is responsible for profiling and intelligence work. It requires the use of criminal investigative powers as part of its criminal intelligence and case development role.
These are the only directorates in HMRC which will investigate crime and are the only directorates which will be allowed to use HMRC’s criminal investigation powers. There is a complete separation of civil and criminal investigations. No one in HMRC dealing with civil enquiries such as tax returns, and claims for tax credits can use criminal powers to further these enquiries.
A separate directorate in HMRC, Criminal Justice and Enforcement Standards, is responsible for maintaining professional standards of criminal investigation in HMRC. Its role is to ensure compliance with the many safeguards that are built into legislation and associated Codes of Practice.