The tax chief has called for more power to keep checks on taxpayers' movements, blaming the Bill of Rights and privacy laws for shielding evaders. Acting Commissioner of Inland Revenue Elmo D'Souza, who testified at yesterday's Legco Public Accounts Committee hearing, said that 'in the old days' he could find out if a tax-evader was leaving Hong Kong by making a phone call. He said the Bill of Rights, introduced in 1993, had made it more difficult for officers to obtain a court order to ban a taxpayer from leaving the territory. The privacy law prevented officers obtaining arrival or departure records of a taxpayer. Mr D'Souza was responding to Audit Commission criticism that $213 million in tax revenue had been lost since 1997 because expatriate workers had left without paying tax. Some returned and left again still without being tracked down. 'In the old days, we were able to get the information from all the entry and exit points of the movements of taxpayers. It used to be a helpful way to locate taxpayers because immigration officials would give us current addresses,' Mr D'Souza said. Asked by legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing of The Frontier if he wanted to have the power back, Mr D'Souza said: 'It would be very helpful. [The privacy law] is at present a hurdle.' Citing court orders against departure, he said that under the Bill of Rights tax officials had to prove departing expatriates had known they had owed tax and that the department was certain they would not return. Mr D'Souza said a special committee had been formed to explore solutions, including law changes, but said Inland Revenue would respect privacy. According to the Audit Commission report, in 1999-2000, 739 people left Hong Kong without paying tax and the Government was forced to write off $58.5 million. Secretary for Treasury Denise Yue Chung-yee said: 'That we have written off the outstanding tax does not mean that we have waived the taxes owed by the expatriates. If one day they return and we can get hold of them, we shall ask them to settle the bill.'