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HMRC criminal investigation officers have wide-ranging powers of arrest, entry, search and detention.
The main power is to detain anyone who has committed, or whom the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect has committed, any offence under the Customs and Excise Acts as well as related fraud offences.
The merger was described by the Financial Times on 9 July 2004, as "mating the C&E terrier with the IR retriever".
For an interim period officers of HMRC are empowered to use existing Inland Revenue powers in relation to matters within the remit of the old Inland Revenue (such as income tax, stamp duty and tax credits) and existing Customs powers in relation to matters within the remit of the old Customs & Excise (such as value added tax and excise duties).
On 30 June 2006, under the authority of the new Labour Home Secretary, John Reid, extensive new powers were given to HMRC.
Under Chairman Sir David Varney, a new Criminal Taxes Unit of senior tax investigators was created to target suspected fraudsters and criminal gangs. This HMRC/CTU would pursue suspects in the same way the US Internal Revenue Service caught out Al Capone on tax evasion.
However, a major review of the powers required by HMRC was announced at the time of the 2004 Pre-Budget Report on 9 December 2004, covering the suitability of existing powers, new powers that might be required, and consolidating the existing compliance regimes for surcharges, interest, penalties and appeal, which may lead to a single, consolidated enforcement regime for all UK taxes, and a consultation document was published after the 2005 Budget on 24 March 2005.
They have aligned their previous Customs and Excise powers to tackle previous Inland Revenue criminal offences.Their prosecution cases may be coordinated with the Police or the Crown Prosecution Service.The department is organised around four operational groups, each led by a director general.The department is responsible for the administration and collection of direct taxes including Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and Inheritance Tax (IHT), indirect taxes including Value Added Tax (VAT), excise duties and Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), and environmental taxes such as Air Passenger Duty and the Climate Change Levy.Other aspects of the department's responsibilities include National Insurance Contributions (NIC), the distribution of Child Benefit and some other forms of state support including the Child Trust Fund, payments of Tax Credits, enforcement of the National Minimum Wage, Responsibility for the protection of the UK's borders passed to the UK Border Agency within the Home Office on 1 April 2008 and then to UK Border Force and the National Crime Agency in 2013.