Scammers impersonating HMRC are targeting taxpayers offering tax rebates and threatening them over fictitious demands for unpaid tax
HMRC warned taxpayers to watch out for scam texts, emails and phone calls from fraudsters.
The warning came as HMRC said it had received more than 130,000 reports about tax scams in the 12 months to September 2023, of which 58,000 were offering fake tax rebates. On the plus side the total number of scam attacks is down on 2022, when HMRC reported more than 80,000 scams offering tax rebates.
HMRC works to protect the public from scammers. In the 12 months to September 2023, HMRC has responded to 60,000 reports of phone scams alone and got 25,000 malicious web pages taken down.
With around 12 million people expected to submit a self assessment tax return for the 2022 to 2023 tax year before the 31 January 2024 deadline, fraudsters are ramping up their activity, targeting taxpayers by pretending to be HMRC.
The scams take different approaches. Some offer a rebate; others tell customers that they need to update their tax details or threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘HMRC is reminding customers to be wary of approaches by fraudsters in the run up to the self assessment deadline.
‘Criminals are great pretenders who try and dupe people by sending emails, phone calls and texts which mimic government messages to make them appear authentic. Unexpected contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so take your time and check HMRC scams advice on gov.uk.’
Taxpayers can report any suspicious communications to HMRC:
• forward suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599
• forward emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
• report tax scam phone calls to HMRC on gov.uk.
It is also important to register in advance if you are required to complete a self assessment form for the first time.
New self assessment taxpayers could be someone who has set up a side hustle to earn money in addition to their PAYE job; disposed of cryptoassets; become newly self-employed or a landlord renting out property for the first time.
Anyone who is self-employed is required to file a self assessment return, whether they are a sole trader or in partnership. This includes people who work in the gig economy or have a second income from trading on eBay and similar websites, earn money as influencers and from advertising on social media channels.
Likewise, anyone receiving income from renting out property through sites like Airbnb need to file a tax return if their earnings exceed £1,000.
Gains on cryptoasset sales are liable for capital gains tax and must be reported on annual returns.
It is also very important to note that the higher rate child benefit charge kicks in for all earners with income over £50,000 and must be reported on a self assessment tax return.
HMRC is keen for taxpayers to file early before 31 January, stressing that any outstanding tax does not have to be paid until the deadline, unless people choose to. It also means that any overpaid tax is refunded early.
Help and support is available on gov.uk to help customers complete their return, although for more complex enquiries the self assessment helpline is available.
HMRC has a wide range of online resources to help taxpayers file a tax return including a series of video tutorials on YouTube and help and support guidance on GOV.UK alongside HMRC digital assistant, HMRC app, community forums and the help and support email service.
If taxpayers think they no longer need to complete a self assessment tax return for the 2022 to 2023 tax year, they should tell HMRC before the deadline on 31 January 2024 to avoid any penalties.
The deadline for tax returns for 2022 to 2023 tax year is 31 October 2023 for paper returns and 31 January 2024 for online returns.