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HMRC internal manual

Specialist Investigations Operational Guidance

Case identification: surveillance: work that is not ‘directed surveillance’ - visits

The type of visits that are not regarded as ‘directed surveillance’ include:

  • ‘drive-by’ and field visits conducted with the intention of establishing the size and likely value of a person’s house or other assets such as the number and registration of the vehicles parked outside, the size of the house, state of repair, and so on
  • where you are acting openly as an HMRC official
  • making discreet enquiries of neighbours or other third parties.

If you introduce yourself as from HMRC, you are not acting covertly; therefore you are not carrying out directed surveillance (but be careful not to ask the person to secretly find anything out for you, as this could make them a CHIS).

In some cases you will not introduce yourself as from HMRC unless challenged. In many such cases your prime motivation is to protect the confidentiality of the taxpayer as far as possible. This is not in itself directed surveillance. But you must consider prior to any such activity whether you will take advantage of the situation to undertake an activity that is directed surveillance. Such activities must always be authorised.

You should be especially careful if you are intending to speak to a member of domestic staff or anyone else resident in a taxpayer’s home. You are not permitted to enter residential premises covertly, as this would become intrusive surveillance.

It is possible that a private estate might be regarded as residential premises. You are advised to conduct interviews with domestic staff or others resident within the private estate elsewhere.

If a home visit is preferred by the staff member, you should conduct the visit by appointment and introduce yourself as from HMRC from the outset (including for example to any security staff). Once on the private estate you should proceed directly to the interview and not take detours or do anything that could be construed as snooping.

If, having followed this guidance, you observe something relevant to your enquiries taking place in the grounds you may record it. (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000) (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)