HMRC have power to arrest without a warrant anyone suspected of criminal fraud or using false documents (Value Added Tax Act 1994, s. 72(9)). Ministerial assurance was given that this power would be exercised only by specialist investigators and in the most serious cases.
HMRC is responsible for investigating suspected criminal activity across the whole range of its responsibilities, including investigating tax credit fraud and VAT fraud, which can involve organised crime. As part of HMRC’s review of its powers since its formation, it has sought views on applying the relevant provisions in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) across all its activities.
Before the merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise to form HMRC, those powers and their associated safeguards were only available for specific taxes and duties. Changes introduced by Finance Act 2007 give trained officers harmonised powers to apply for search warrants and production orders, and powers of arrest across all taxes, all of which are subject to the important safeguards which attach to criminal investigations generally. Appropriate powers have been enacted for use in Scotland and Northern Ireland to integrate with its legal system.