Self-Assessment taxpayers have been warned to be on their guard against fraudsters trying to steal their information.
Over the last year, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) received nearly 900,000 reports from the public about suspicious HMRC contact, which included phone calls, texts or emails.
More than 100,000 of these were phone scams, while over 620,000 reports from the public were about bogus tax rebates.
HMRC is issuing reminder emails and SMS texts to Self-Assessment taxpayers about the 31 January deadline and is warning people to not be taken in by malicious emails, phone calls or texts, thinking that these are genuine HMRC communications referring to their tax return.
Some of the most common techniques fraudsters use include phoning taxpayers offering a fake tax refund.
They are also pretending to be HMRC by texting or emailing a link that will take customers to a false web page, with a similar appearance to the HMRC official page, where their bank details and money will be stolen.
Fraudsters are also known to threaten victims with arrest or imprisonment if a bogus tax bill is not paid immediately.
What to look out for
It could be a scam if calls, emails and text messages, are:
- Offering a refund, tax rebate or grant
- Asking for personal information like bank details
- Threatening in their nature
- Telling you to transfer money.
More than four million genuine emails and SMS are being issued to Self-Assessment taxpayers pointing them to guidance and support.
The communication will prompt them to think about how they intend to pay their tax bill and to seek support if they are unable to pay in full by the deadline at the end of January. Taxpayers should consult their accountant for advice on this.
Always be on your guard
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said: “Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.
“HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.
“Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on GOV.UK and find out how to report them to us.”
HMRC has a dedicated team working on cyber and phone crimes using state of the art technology to counter misleading and malicious communication.
Anyone who is in doubt about whether a website is genuine should visit GOV.UK for more information about Self-Assessment and use the free signposted tax return forms.
How HMRC will contact you
HMRC have recently (12/02/2024) published updated guidance on what they will and won’t do if they contact you.
By phone: HMRC will never threaten arrest or leave a voicemail threatening legal action.
By text: HMRC do send text messages that may include a link to GOV.UK information or HMRC webchat. They will never ask for personal or financial information. So, a text message that offers a tax refund in exchange for personal or financial details cannot be from them.
By WhatsApp: If you have subscribed to the UK Government Channel, you may receive occasional tax-related reminders, but you will not be able to reply. HMRC don’t otherwise use WhatsApp to communicate with taxpayers.
HMRC does use QR codes in its letters to take you to guidance on GOV.UK, but they confirm that you would never be taken to a page that requires you to provide personal information. QR codes might also be used after you have already logged in to redirect you to, say, your bank login page.
For help and advice with related matters, please get in touch with our team today.
*Updated 12/02/2024 with new HMRC guidance.