A trio of tax repayment agents have been rapped by the advertising watchdog over misleading advertisements and told they must include fee information
Tax Hero, Fast Track Reclaim and Total Tax Refunds were all found to have broken Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules by misleading taxpayers over the level of fees they would have to pay on tax rebates claimed by the agents. These services are all provided for free by HMRC.
Tax Hero advertised on Facebook claiming that taxpayers could secure a refund of £3,000 for tax paid on PPI claims and encouraged people to use their online tool to check whether they were entitled to a tax rebate.
The ASA challenged whether the advertisements misleadingly implied the ‘free online tool’ would confirm whether the consumer was entitled to a refund from HMRC and exaggerated the likely refund achievable by consumers. Tax Hero also did not make it clear that a 48% fee (with a £10 minimum) on the final refund applied, or that consumers could apply for a refund directly from HMRC free of charge.
Tax Hero acknowledged that ‘not every customer would receive the maximum refund amount and said they would amend their advertising to reflect that. They said that their fees were clearly signposted in their terms and conditions’.
The ASA said that consumers were unlikely to be aware that there was a free route to claiming the advertised tax and concluded that the advertisements were likely to mislead.
Fast Track Reclaim ran a paid for Google ad and website which made claims about available refund amounts without supporting evidence, omitted significant conditions and did not make clear that consumers could apply directly to HMRC at no cost.
The Google ad was headed ‘Married Tax Relief Checker – Tax Preparation Service Online’ and stated people could claim up to £1,200.
The agent’s fees were 36% inclusive of VAT subject to a minimum charge of £30 inc VAT on any tax rebates.
The ASA said ‘consumers were unlikely to be aware that there was a free route to claiming the advertised tax refund, which was also significant information likely to affect how they would respond to the ads’.
The ruling stated the ads must not appear again in their current form. ‘We told Quickly Finance Ltd t/a Fast Track Reclaim to ensure that they did not exaggerate the likely refunds consumers would receive by omitting to make clear that not every couple would benefit. We told them to ensure that their advertising included details of their fees. We also told them to make clear that consumers could apply directly to HMRC at no cost’.
Total Tax Claims ran a paid for Facebook ad and website advertising a claims service for work from home tax relief of up to £624 during the pandemic. It made claims about available refund amounts without supporting evidence, omitted significant conditions and did not make clear that consumers could apply directly to HMRC at no cost.
The agent charged a fee of 42% on any claim, plus a £30 admin fee, which ASA said was not prominent and was excluded from the ad. It added that ‘by omitting that information from the ads meant they were likely to mislead, including in relation to the refund available’. The company was told that the ads could not run without inclusion of fee information and availability of the claim process via HMRC for free.