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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

How to do a compliance check: recording information: use of HMRC digital devices during compliance checks: the use of the camera on HMRC digital devices

You may use a departmental BlackBerry, laptop or tablet to take photographs of subject matter with a Government Security Marking up to and including ‘Official’ on HMRC business if it is necessary in the course of your duties. This will include subject matter with a marking of ‘Official - Sensitive’.

It is HMRC policy that you must not take photographs of people, including people in private cars, or any part of a person’s home during a compliance check. This is because you may obtain private information and taking photographs in these circumstances could constitute surveillance activity which would require a RIPA application.

During an inspection under Schedule 36 of the Finance Act 2008, you may record information relating to the premises, items and documents that have been examined or inspected.

During your compliance check, you may only use the camera in the following specific circumstances:

  • to take photographs of business assets or business premises, see CH255535
  • to take a copy of an original document in the following circumstances:
    • when the customer will not permit you to remove the original document, and
    • where there are no facilities to provide a copy and you are unlikely to have access to the documents in the future.

You may take photographs of both sides of no more than five original documents. This is to reduce the risk of potential data loss if a digital device is misplaced.

You must always explain to any person present that you are going to take a photograph as a record. This will ensure that you do not appear to be taking covert photographs which would constitute surveillance activity.

You may also use the camera during covert activity under CRCA 2005 s (9)(1)a, when you are making a test purchase or test eat, to take a photograph of the sales invoice you receive as a customer, see CH207500.

You must not take any other photographs during covert activity.

If you are using the camera on a digital device, you should immediately email the images as a jpeg file from your HMRC GSI email account to your GSI secure email address. You must delete the images from your digital device as soon as you have received the email and checked the attachment. You must always delete the images from your digital device within 24 hours of taking the photographs even if you have not been able to check you have received the email and the attachment.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

You should then save the jpeg file to the appropriate CAF and, if required, export the jpeg file to Caseflow and delete the image in the CAF.

For guidance on how long images must be retained locally, you should check the Retention and Disposal schedules for your business area.

When you take a photograph on your digital device you must record this in your notebook with the date and time you took the photograph and the date and time you emailed it to your HMRC GSI email account.

You can find information on the camera software and rules of use within HMRC on the IT help pages.

The camera software is enabled on all HMRC BlackBerrys, tablets and some laptops.