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Can HMRC listen to your phone calls and look at itemised phone records?

Can HMRC listen to your phone calls and look at...

My brother told me that HMRC can listen to phone calls and use the information to seek other evidence in the case of general tax evasion. He said HMRC went all the way to the House Of Lords trying to get permission to use the information as evidence in court or at tribunal, but were told no. He said that they were told they could benefit from the data/evidence in enquiry only, but had to be satisfied with using it to work out what further investigation was needed to get evidence that they could use in court. I thought he was being conspiracyish and that interception is reserved for serious crime investigations.

Up until this weekend I believed that HMRC could ask a taxpayer to produce their own itemised phone bills, if they made business calls from a mobile or land line, and only if the calls formed part of their tax return.

For itemised bills to be intercepted/applied for and recieved by HMRC/or for calls to be listened to I thought a person would need to be committing carousel fraud, gun smuggling, cigarette smuggling, I have googled quickly and found articles that say interception of phone calls, emails and post can be used by HMRC in the case of suspected crime. All evasion is a crime but is usually dealt with under a civil investigation. So where does the actual practise lie and is he right about any of it please?

I have not evaded any taxes myself. I have come across people that appear to and always tell them that if they are doing it, they should absolutely stop. It is my understanding that it is virtually impossible not to leave an auditable trail if you spend any unofficial cash. I am still not sure if that is true.


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17th Jul 2012 09:12


I am getting a bit mixed up with the 'he said this & he said that' and actual facts. Are there any articles you can provide a link to?

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to zarar
17th Jul 2012 17:51

As clear as mud isn't it?

ShirleyM wrote:

I am getting a bit mixed up with the 'he said this & he said that' and actual facts. Are there any articles you can provide a link to?

Hello Shirley. No I haven't written any articles, and reading the internet seems to throw up a mix of views on the HMRC powers and permissions to intercept phone calls. If you type "hmrc surveillance powers" into google you will find many articles ranging from 'Watchout the government are bugging your trousers via your smart phone" to "The HMRC have got rid of all their inspectors and are 38 years behind with tribunals."

I am wondering if anyone contributing to this respectable website have knowledge of what the HMRC are allowed to do, what they do in practise and whether the House Of Lords did make a decision. It is facts that I too am interested in, hence the question.

Did you get my question confused with AW articles? This is the question and answer section of AW, I am asking a question because I am interested in the answer and would like to know what other people know to be facts.

I cannot provide a link to my brother. :D

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17th Jul 2012 09:43

see Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA)

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to RobertD
17th Jul 2012 17:36

Thank you, For my shame I even looked on Wikipedia.

uktaxpal wrote:

see Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA)

Thank you very much UKTaxPal. For completeness of thread I will add what I found with your help. (In case anyone else wonders the same after conversation with older brothers or friends or blokes down the pub.) I had previously thought that they could not listen to your phone calls for tax evasion, but could get details of who you rang, when, and for how long. RIPA seems to bear that out.


Wire taps and intercepting post would only be permitted under warrant by Home Secretary or Cabinet Secretary for Justice for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime and for the purpose of safeguarding the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.

Bugging houses and vehicles would only be permitted under authorisation of any customs officer designated for the purposes by the Commissioners of Revenue and Customs, for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime and in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.


The following is permitted to be used by HMRC:


Information about a communication, but not the content of that communication (phone numbers, subscriber details).


Following people.



1-3. For the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government department, when authorised by a senior member of HMRC authority.



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17th Jul 2012 21:49

Don't forget that . . .

Don't forget that HMRC can (and often do) record telephone conversations you have with them.  The recording continues even whilst you are put on 'hold' to listen to the nice music etc.

I had a fraud case in which the defendant had phoned HMRC to make a claim for tax credits, whilst on hold he was recorded saying (apparently to his wife in the same room) "I think we are going to get away with this".  The transcript of the recording was used in prosecution evidence at his trial.  It didn't help him!


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18th Jul 2012 10:06

You can inform all entities that you do not agree to them recording your calls.It is your right not to be recorded.

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to cheekychappy
18th Jul 2012 11:13

Is it legal to record phone calls?

uktaxpal wrote:

You can inform all entities that you do not agree to them recording your calls.It is your right not to be recorded.

If I decided to record all my phone calls for my own reference would it be legal?

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18th Jul 2012 11:33


For any law enforcement agency in the UK, the principle is roughly the same.  The level of intrusiveness of surveillance must be proportional to the seriousness of the offence.

Bugging phone calls is very intrusive.  Googling someone's name is not.

For an example, recall the hoo-ha a while ago about a local council surveilling someone suspected of lying about their residence in order to obtain a better school for their children.  Ok, it's dishonest and scummy and people shouldn't do it, but it doesn't justify intrusive surveillance.

On the other hand if you are dealing Class A drugs you should expect a bit of intrusive surveillance.  Good luck to the police on that one.

As for tax offences you can probably work it out for yourselves.  Fraud (which is what David refers to) is a bit below drug dealing, but somewhat above being a bit careless with your tax return.


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20th Jul 2012 02:16

You can only record telephone conversations if you have consent and your telecoms licence permits you to record tel calls.

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