Not well publicised in the press was the revelation that since September 2013 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have had the power to access your credit card statements by making a request for information from the companies that process credit card transactions.

When HMRC commence an enquiry into a taxpayer’s affairs, one of the key lines of enquiry is whether the disclosed earnings ‘fit’ with the known lifestyle of the taxpayer. A request to examine credit card statements is routine in such instances. Another reason for requesting the taxpayer’s credit card statements is to discover ‘remittances’ to the UK by people claiming that the remittance basis of taxation applies to them by virtue of foreign domicile. HMRC normally regard payments of Sterling liabilities through a foreign bank account as a remittance of foreign income, and thus taxable.

However, HMRC can now ‘mine’ statements using software called ‘Connect’, which allows them to build up a picture of the taxpayer’s finances.

HMRC already have more comprehensive rights of search of premises than do the police, and a number of HMRC staff of officer grade and above have criminal investigation powers. More than 1,400 have powers of arrest.

HMRC typically undertake a reasonable degree of background research before they launch an enquiry. Recently, it was revealed that HMRC officers make use of Google Earth to assess the type of property the taxpayer lives in and even to identify the cars they have parked in the drive. It has been known for some time that HMRC make lists of car number plates at car boot sales and also track vendors on eBay to look for traders who do not declare their earnings.

HMRC’s criminal investigation policy and information on their criminal investigation powers can be found on their website.


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