Revenue Note for Guidance
This section provides the Revenue Commissioners with the power to apply to a District Court judge for a search warrant where they are investigating a tax offence with a view to having the offender prosecuted. The power provided under this section may not be used if the investigation does not have a criminal element, i.e. if the investigation is solely to determine a person’s tax liability. A search warrant issued under this section is valid for up to one month from the date of issue. Material found during the search may by seized, copied and retained if the authorised Revenue officer believes the material may be useful in investigating the offence. Persons found in the place subject to the search warrant must comply with the search; failure to do so can result in a fine of up to €5,000 and/or a prison term of up to 6 months.
(1) In this section —
“the Acts” means the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act, 1993, as well as the meaning given to it in section 1078(1);
“authorised officer” means an officer of the Revenue Commissioners authorised by them in writing to exercise the powers conferred on him/her by this section;
“commission”, in relation to an offence, includes an attempt to commit the offence;
“computer” includes any electronic device which is capable of performing logical or arithmetical operations on data in accordance with a set of instructions;
“computer at the place which is being searched” includes any other computer, either at the place being searched or elsewhere, which can be lawfully accessed by that computer;
“information in non-legible form” means information which is kept in non-legible form, e.g. on microfilm, magnetic tape, etc.;
“offence” means an offence under the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act, 1993 and the enactments referred to in section 1078(1);
“place” includes any building, dwelling, vehicle, aircraft, etc.;
“record” includes any information in non-legible form which can be reproduced in a permanently legible form.
(2) A District Court judge may issue a warrant to search a place and any thing or person found there if he/she is satisfied, based on the sworn evidence of a Revenue officer authorised for the purposes of this section, that an offence under the Acts is being, has been or is about to be committed there, or that evidential material relevant to the offence may be found there.
(3) A search warrant issued under subsection (2) entitles the authorised Revenue officer, and certain other people, to enter the place named on the warrant up to one month after its date of issue. Once inside, the authorised Revenue officer and colleagues may search the place and any person or thing found therein. Any person found therein must give certain personal details if required, and must hand over any material he/she has in his/her possession. The authorised Revenue officer and colleagues may also examine, seize and retain any material found therein if the officer believes the material may be useful in investigating the offence.
(4) Where the authorised Revenue officer seizes and retains any material, if that material is books, documents or other physical records, he/she may make copies of same. If the material is a computer or other storage medium, the officer may retain it for as long as necessary and may make copies of any records found in the computer or other storage medium.
(5) An authorised Revenue officer or their colleague may operate any computer found in the place being searched. The officer can also require a person found in the place being searched to assist the officer or their colleague in that regard by operating the computer themselves, providing passwords, etc.
(6) Where a person found in the place being searched obstructs the entry of the authorised Revenue officer or his\her colleagues, obstructs the examination or seizure of any material, fails to give, or gives false personal details when requested, or fails to assist in the operating of any computers, that person is guilty of an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of up to €5,000 for an offence committed on or after 14 March 2008, (€3,000 for offences committed before that date) or a prison term of up to 6 months, or to both the fine and prison term.
(7) The authorised Revenue officer may also be accompanied by one or more Gardaí, who are empowered to arrest any person who obstructs the search, who fails to cooperate with the search or who otherwise commits an offence under subsection (6).
(8) Any material seized by the authorised Revenue officer or his/her colleagues during the search may be retained by them for as long as it is required for the purposes of any legal or criminal proceedings.
Relevant Date: Finance Act 2020