Under new amendments to the Postal Services Act, HMRC officers will be allowed to intercept any suspicious mail in the country and open it.
The change is aimed at cracking down on tobacco smuggling but an HMRC spokesman has said the powers could be applied much more widely.
Currently, Royal Mail staff can intercept suspicious letters and parcels in sorting offices and mail centres and pass them on to HMRC.
HMRC must then contact the addressee and arrange a mutually convenient time to open the mail before deciding whether to take any enforcement action.
This is all due to change however, as the Government is proposing to remove the requirement to notify the addressee allowing inspectors to open suspicious post without seeking permission first.
The new measure will be passed into as law as part of the Budget over the course of the next few weeks and amend section 106 of the Postal Services Act 2000.
The charge was disclosed in a Treasury document published alongside the Budget headlined “Tackling tobacco smuggling in the post” but HMRC have said the powers would be applied much more broadly.
Accountants have warned that tax inspectors would seek to use the powers in other areas once they became law.
Although this seems to be a small change it could be a big step for increased powers for HMRC. Once HMRC gain new powers they are often extended.
HMRC are growing increasingly aggressive in their fight against tax evaders and it seems that these new powers could be their latest weapon in the battle.