HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned millions of tax-payers to watch out for fraudsters in the run up to the 31 January self-assessment deadline.
Over the past year, HMRC has received nearly 900,000 reports from the public about suspicious HMRC contact via phone calls, texts and emails. More than 100,000 of these were phone scams, while over 620,000 reports from the public were about bogus tax rebates.
The fake tax refund is one of the most common approaches used by criminals. Fraudsters pretend to be HMRC on the phone or they text or email a link which will take customers to a false page, where their bank details and money will be stolen. Some fraudsters even threaten victims with arrest or imprisonment if a bogus tax bill is not paid immediately.
HMRC's Customer Protection team works to identify and close down scams like these but it is advising customers to recognise the signs so they don't become victims themselves. Genuine organisations like HMRC and banks will never ask customers for their PIN, password or bank details for example. Customers should never give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in texts or emails which they are not expecting.
Customers are being urged to send details of suspicious calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC to [email protected]; texts should be forwarded to 60599. Customers who have suffered financial loss should contact Action Fraud.
There's more information on the government website on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and avoid and report scams. If customers think they have received an HMRC-related phishing email or text message, they can check it against genuine examples on the website.
Tax-payers that are completing their self-assessment tax return online for the first time need to register online. You must complete a tax return if you:
- Are a self-employed sole trader;
- Are an employee claiming expenses in excess of £2,500;
- Have an annual income over £100,000;
- Have earned income from abroad that you need to pay tax on;
- Earned more than £2,500 from renting out property;
- Received more than £2,500 in other untaxed income, for example from tips or commission.
Self-assessment is also required if either you or your partner had an annual income of more than £50,000 and one of you received child benefit. Further self-assessment guidance is available on the government website.
Written by Rachel Miller.