Public told to keep an eye out for scam emails and texts
HMRC is warning millions of self-assessment taxpayers to be aware of fraudsters in the run up to the 31 January deadline to submit their tax returns.
The tax and benefits agency today revealed that over the last year it had received nearly 900,000 reports from the public about suspicious HMRC contact – 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.
Among the most common scams are fraudsters phoning taxpayers offering a fake tax refund, or pretending to be HMRC by texting or emailing a link which will take customers to a false page, where their bank details and money will be stolen.
HMRC operates a dedicated customer protection team of officials who work to identify and close down scams, but it is today advising customers to recognise the signs to avoid becoming victims themselves.
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It said genuine organisations like HMRC and banks would never contact customers asking for their PIN, password or bank details. 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, it added.
In particular, the tax agency is urging people to be aware of copycat websites and phishing scams, and suggests people always type in the full online address www.gov.uk/hmrc to obtain the correct link to file a Self Assessment return online securely.
Customers are urged to provide details of suspicious calls or emails to HMRC through the email email@example.com, or though texts to 60599. Customers who have suffered financial loss should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or use their online fraud reporting tool.
Although most UK taxpayers pay income tax automatically though the pay as you earn system, where tax is not automatically deducted, or when people or businesses have earned additional untaxed income, they are required to complete a Self Assessment tax return each year.
Examples where people need to complete a tax return and need to be wary of possible scams include: if they earned more than £2,500 from renting out property; or their partner received child benefit and either of them had an annual income of more than £50,000 or received more than £2,500 in other untaxed income – for example from tips or commission. They also need to submit a tax return if they are self-employed sole traders, or are employees claiming expenses in excess of £2,500, or have an annual income over £100,000. Income earned abroad that they need to pay tax on must also be declared.