HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) inspectors are increasingly using controversial powers to monitor suspected tax evaders, official figures suggest.
Revenue officers were granted 5,492 requests to spy on people under the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (Ripa) 2000, legislation designed tackle terrorism and serious crimes, the Telegraph reports.
The figure marks an 80% increase in just four years, with the overwhelming majority of requests to use Ripa for tax evasion being granted.
Revenue inspectors are known to visit harbours and airfields to trace owners of luxury yachts, helicopters and private aircraft in a bid to stem the £3bn annual cost of lost tax.
Caroline Spelman, shadow communities secretary, says: "Tax officials are using anti-terror powers to spy on the personal tax affairs of hard-working families anything up to fifteen times a day.
"Labour's surveillance laws are routinely being abused and overused by town hall officials and quangos, turning Britain into a Stasi state."
However Stephen Timms, a treasury minister, says today's figures include some applications for drugs and arms smuggling spying operations now taken up by two other Government agencies.
HMRC justified its use of the anti-terror laws, saying it provides "an important number of safeguards", and is only used within strict limits of "necessity and proportionality."
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