Proposals to extend HM Revenue & Customs' powers to make arrests, take fingerprints and execute wider search warrants without the police could come as a shock to taxpayers, warns Birmingham accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young.
The proposals, published in a HMRC consultation, would see potentially draconian powers Customs officers already have extended into what UHY Hacker Young describe as more pedestrian areas of tax offences.
Malcolm Winston, a partner, cautioned: "Customs & Excise officers have historically had much tougher investigatory and arrest powers because they were dealing with the smuggling of drugs, firearms and nuclear material.
"Tax investigators chasing underpayment of corporation tax target a very different class of offender.
"There is the obvious problem the powers could be misused to shock and intimidate suspected evaders and, of course, not all suspects are guilty.
"Having the HMRC rely on the presence of police officers for arrests and fingerprinting created useful checks and balances.
"I am not sure the HMRC have made the detailed case it needs to justify its demands."
The HMRC Consultation document proposes: * The wider powers of arrest of former Custom's officers be extended to all criminal investigation officers.
* Criminal investigators be able to take fingerprints.
* HMRC be allowed to search people on the business premises of a suspect.
* HMRC be able to use an open warrant to search for evidence of any tax crime.
* The 'serious' crime test on arrests be scrapped.
UHY Hacker Young says the implication is the HMRC wants this test done away with so they can make examples of people.
UHY Hacker Young say since the merging of Customs & Excise and the Inland Revenue was proposed there has been concern the HMRC would seek a levelling up of Customs & Excise's powers across the organisation.