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HMRC internal manual

Claimant Compliance Manual

Working the examination: Meaning of intrusive surveillance

Intrusive surveillance is any surveillance which is carried out in relation to anything which takes place in residential premises or private vehicles and involves the covert presence of an individual on the premises. HMRC may not carry out any operation that could be described as “intrusive surveillance”, and Revenue officers must never enter a person’s home either covertly or without permission.

If you are acting openly as a Revenue officer you are not acting covertly.

Residential premises includes anywhere that people live, including bed and breakfast accommodation hotels, caravans etc., even if a person’s stay at the premises is short term (for example because they are on holiday). A private vehicle is any vehicle that is primarily used for private purposes, and includes vehicles hired for private use (but not taxi cabs).

You will often enter residential premises during the course of your work, when you hold a meeting with claimants or, occasionally, third parties (e.g. child care providers) in their homes. As you will be acting openly as a Revenue official, you will not be carrying out surveillance of any kind, either intrusive or directed. But you must take care not to overstep the mark because this might lead you in to intrusive surveillance.

CCM5380 tells you what you should avoid when you are in someone else’s home, and you must follow the guidance carefully.

You should not in any circumstances carry out any of the following activities:

  • keeping watch on residential premises (e.g. while sitting in a car parked outside) to see who comes out of the premises, and at what time of the day. Even if you suspect an undeclared partner is living with the claimant, you are not allowed to carry out this type of surveillance because it is neither cost effective nor proportionate, and whatever you observe cannot amount to proof that the person is living there;
  • speaking to neighbours, friends etc. to obtain information about the claimant(s). If you arrive at the premises to discover the claimant(s) is out, and a neighbour challenges you, you should identify yourself, but you should not engage in any further discussion with the neighbour.