These are under amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), brought in by under the Serious Crime Act 2007 Schedule 12, and brought into force through the The Serious Crime Act 2007 (Commencement No.1) Order 2008 No. 219 (C. 5)
As Rob writes
HMRC has stated that all surveillance will be conducted in compliance with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the Wilson Doctrine, and subject to checks by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners and the Interception of Communication Commissioners Office. However, the department will not need to seek external authorisation for any of its surveillance activities.
The move flies in the face of assurances given when the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise merged in 2005 that integration would not necessitate an alignment of powers. Professional bodies such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales will be further disappointed that HMRC has yet to draw up its own code of conduct regarding the new powers.
We expressed our worries last January: Is SOCA so useless, that HM Revenue & Customs really needs "bugging and phone-tap powers" ?
We have still seen no coherent justification for the extension of the snooping powers of the former Customs & Excise side, to infect the former Inland Revenue side of the HM Revenue & Customs mongrel Department.
If tax investigations (not drug smuggling) are on a scale and seriousness, so as to justify telephone intercepts and intrusive surveillance (i.e. legalised burglary into homes and offices to plant bugging devices), or to recruit Covert Human Intelligence informers, then surely the Serious Organised Crime Agency should be involved in a joint operation, and they can authorise and audit the necessary surveillance under RIPA ?
How can the Labour government justify allowing tens of thousands more faceless HMRC bureaucrats, to have access to our most sensitive personal data, through the most intrusive snooping powers, when they still have not restored any public confidence and trust following their appalling betrayal after the Child Benefit database scandal and other failed IT management and training privacy and security disasters ?
Remember that the Poynter Review and the Hannigan Review etc. etc. are being used as an excuse not to do anything effective about these scandals until after the May 1st 2008 Local Elections.