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Criminal Investigations

HMRC is increasingly using criminal investigations across a range of offences.

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HMRC’s criminal investigation policy

Criminal investigation, with a view to prosecution is an important part of HMRC’s overall enforcement strategy.

Criminal Investigation is used when HMRC needs to send a strong deterrent message or where the conduct involved is such that only a criminal sanction is appropriate. However, in any case involving tax fraud, no matter how small, HMRC reserves complete discretion to conduct a criminal investigation.

HMRC's Criminal Investigations powers
  • Apply for orders requiring information to be produced – production orders.
  • apply for search warrants.
  • Make arrests.
  • Search suspects and premises following an arrest.

HMRC does not take fingerprints, charge, or bail suspects. This has to be done by the police. Some of the powers are modified for HMRC. For example, a search warrant may allow HMRC to search persons found on the premises without the need for arrest. This allows HMRC to search a bookkeeper who may have evidence in a briefcase or laptop when a company’s premises are searched, but who is not considered a suspect.

Examples where HMRC will consider a criminal investigation
  • Organised criminal gangs attacking the tax system or systematic frauds.
  • Where an individual holds a position of trust or responsibility.
  • Where materially false statements are made or materially false documents are provided during a civil investigation.
  • Where reliance is placed on a false or altered document or material facts are misrepresented to HMRC perhaps to enhance the credibility of an aviodance scheme.
  • Where deliberate concealment, deception, conspiracy or corruption is suspected.
  • The use of false or forged documents.
  • Cases involving importation or exportation breaching prohibitions and restrictions.
  • Cases involving money laundering with particular focus on advisors, accountants, solicitors and others acting in a ‘professional’ capacity.
  • Where the perpetrator has committed previous offences.
  • Cases involving theft, misuse or un lawful destruction of HMRC documents.
  • Where there is evidence of assault on, threats to, or the impersonation of HMRC officials.
  • Where there is a link to suspected wider criminality.

When considering whether a case should be investigated under the CDF procedures or is the subject of a criminal investigation, one factor to be considered is whether the taxpayer has made a complete and unprompted disclosure of the offences committed.

Contact us

Sean Wakeman
Sean Wakeman
Partner, Head of Tax Resolutions
John Cassidy
John Cassidy
Partner, Tax Resolutions