HMRC warns of a rise in self-assessment tax fraud – here’s how to spot it
- HMRC received more than 130,000 reports of tax fraud last year
- It warns self-assessment taxpayers to be on their guard ahead of the deadline
HMRC has warned self-assessment taxpayers to be on the lookout for fraudulent calls, text messages and emails after receiving more than 130,000 reports last year.
With around 12 million people expected to file a self-assessment tax return ahead of the January 31, 2024 deadline, the tax office has warned that fraudsters will “take advantage of customers by impersonating HMRC”.
The tax office said it received more than 130,000 reports of tax fraud in the twelve months up to September 2023 and responded to 60,000 reports of telephone fraud alone.
Fake tax refunds were the most popular among fraudsters, with 58,000 scams reported last year. These can be difficult to spot as there are some reputable companies that will offer you a tax refund.
Tax fraud: HMRC has warned self-assessment taxpayers to be on the lookout for scam calls
Other companies may submit inaccurate refund claims to HMRC on your behalf and charge a fee based on the amount of the refund. If the claim is incorrect, HMRC may initially pay out but later reclaim it.
Other scams can include emails claiming to be from organizations such as HMRC asking you to click on a link asking you to enter your card details. This information can then be used to steal money from your account.
HMRC has also raised the alarm about scams that are warning customers they need to update their tax details or face immediate arrest for tax evasion.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC general manager of customer service, said: “HMRC is reminding customers to be wary of fraudsters ahead of the self-assessment deadline.”
“Criminals are great fraudsters who try to deceive people by sending emails, phone calls and text messages that mimic government messages to make them appear authentic.”
“Unexpected contacts like this should raise alarm bells, so take your time.”
We expect the number of scams to increase around January 31, the online filing deadline.
AJ Bell’s Laura Suter predicts that even more taxpayers will be at risk of falling prey to tax fraud in the coming months.
“The government’s crackdown on tax breaks means many more people will be filing tax returns in the next few years – giving fraudsters new to the system a good chance to defraud people.”
“Furthermore, people’s budgets have shrunk during the cost of living crisis, meaning text promising a tax refund is more attractive than ever – but could end in financial disaster.”
“Many of these people applying will be doing so for the first time ever and are often navigating a complicated system without any help.” This means they are far more likely to fall victim to scammers who will text them for details or ask for details Promise tax refund.
“This is especially true for those who submit their documents close to the deadline and are in a hurry. We expect the number of scams to increase around January 31, leading up to the online registration deadline.”
How to spot an HMRC fraud
If you receive a text message, email or call out of the blue claiming to be from HMRC, do not respond directly.
You should contact HMRC directly using the details on the government website to check whether the sender is legitimate.
The tax office has published examples of HMRC scams it has discovered and is urging customers to report any fraud.
QR codes: HMRC sometimes uses QR codes in its letters, but only to direct customers to the gov.uk website, and never to a page where you have to enter personal information.
Texts: Although HMRC will send text messages to customers, they will never ask for personal or financial information.
Emails: Scammers can spoof real email addresses to make them appear real. Do not click on links to visit any website mentioned in a tax refund email, do not open any attachments, or provide any personal or payment information.
Calls: HMRC say they are aware of an automated phone call scam designed to notify you that HMRC is making a claim against you. This is a scam and you should end the call immediately.