We have found out that figures show Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs officials made almost 14,400 authorised views of "communications data" on taxpayers during tax evasion investigations.
This compares to more than 11,500 such views in 2010, which equates to a rise of almost 25 per cent, according to statistics released under Freedom of Information laws.
Using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, HMRC can access details on what websites are viewed by taxpayers, where a mobile phone call was made or received and the date and time of emails, texts and phone calls.
From October 2011 to the end of September last year, HMRC was given 172 authorisations for "directed surveillance", covert surveillance, mainly in public places. This had decreased from the previous year.
But critics today accused tax officials of pursuing wrong targets.
"HMRC should be focusing on the estimated £35bn lost tax, not snooping on hard-working people,” said Stephen McPartland, the Conservative MP for Stevenage who is campaigning for large companies to be more open about tax.
It is not clear how many times the surveillance has led to a successful prosecution for tax evasion or whether those found to be innocent are told that they have been spied on.
HMRC did not respond to requests for this information from the members of the press.
Officials also refused to disclose how many times it had been given warrants to intercept and read peoples' private emails, or listen to their phone calls.
This is the most intrusive type of surveillance, which needs to be authorised by the Home Secretary.
It also refused to disclose the number of times it had carried out "intrusive surveillance", which can include covertly filming a person's house, or bugging their property or car.
An HMRC spokesman said: "Tackling serious organised crime is a priority for us and access to communications data and directed surveillance have a vital role to play in meeting that challenge.
"In 2011 communications data enabled us to prevent £850m of tax revenue being diverted into the pockets of fraudsters.
“Our use of these powers is subject to regular independent inspection, ensuring it is both proportionate and lawful."
Fortunately at Tax Affinity Accountants we are authorised HMRC agents and can quickly and effectively help in all matters investigations and penalties.
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