There are numerous statutory and non-statutory safeguards on HMRC’s use of its criminal investigation powers.
HMRC’s criminal investigation powers are used only in its criminal work and are not used in civil investigations or other HMRC activities.
HMRC is not responsible for prosecuting the crimes it investigates. The decision whether or not to prosecute is taken by the relevant independent prosecuting authority.
A separate directorate in HMRC, Criminal, Justice and Enforcement Standards, is dedicated to maintaining professional standards in criminal investigation. Like all other aspects of HMRC’s work criminal investigation is subject to review by HMRC’s Internal Audit directorate.
External oversight is provided by the HM Inspectors of Constabulary, the Scottish and Northern Ireland inspectors and the National Audit Office. Complaints can be made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Ombudsman and the Adjudicator.
Many of the powers require external independent approval before they can be used. The person granting approval has to be satisfied that the relevant conditions are met. Production orders and search warrants have to be issued by a magistrate or a judge. The use of intrusive surveillance powers is subject to external approval at the highest level as described in the section on intrusive surveillance.