How to spot a Self Assessment tax scam

The threat of being targeted by scammers seems ever present these days. Many of us are frequently targeted, usually by bogus, fraudulent and indeed criminal phone calls, emails or texts that seek to get us to…

5 Minute Read

Last Updated: 31st March 2024

The threat of being targeted by scammers seems ever present these days. Many of us are frequently targeted, usually by bogus, fraudulent and indeed criminal phone calls, emails or texts that seek to get us to reveal information that enables scammers to steal our hard-earned money. Sadly, sometimes they succeed.

Some tax scams are easier than others to spot. Among the more difficult scams to detect are those that claim to come from HMRC, which is warning Self Assessment taxpayers to be vigilant when it comes to scam texts, emails and phone calls that in reality come from fraudsters and criminals.

UK tax scam warning

HMRC received more than 130,000 reports of tax scams in the 12 months to September 2023, with 58,000 of these offering fake tax rebates. HMRC is concerned that there could be a tax scam spike in the remaining months of this year and January next year.

“HMRC is reminding customers to be wary of approaches by fraudsters in the run-up to the Self Assessment deadline,” says Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services. “Criminals are great pretenders who try to dupe people by sending emails, phone calls and texts that mimic government messages to make them appear authentic. Unexpected contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing,” she warns.

Common types of tax scam

Tax scams come in different guises. In addition to those that offer taxpayers a bogus tax rebate, others tell you that you need to update your tax details or they threaten you with a hefty fine or even arrest for tax evasion. Fraudulent tax rebate offers can be hard to identify, because there are now many legitimate commercial service providers that offer to obtain tax refunds.

Another popular scam is where fraudsters submit a refund claim to HMRC on your behalf, charging you a fee based on how much you get. Later, when HMRC discovers you weren’t owed a tax rebate, it will request immediate repayment, leaving you out of pocket because of the fee you’ve paid to the fraudsters.

In other cases, criminals send fake emails that look like they come from HMRC. They contain a link, and after clicking on it, you’re asked to enter card details. Then, with lightning speed, money is stolen from your account.

How to spot a tax scam

If you receive an unexpected text, email or phone call claiming to come from HMRC, don’t respond directly. Instead, contact HMRC directly to seek verification.

HMRC does use QR codes in its letters to taxpayers, but they would never take you to a website page that asks you to reveal personal tax or financial information. The same is true of texts. If you receive an automated phone call pretending to be HMRC warning you that it is taking legal action against you for tax avoidance/evasion, hang up straight away and block the call if your phone enables you to do so.

If you receive an email that looks like it comes from HMRC (fraudsters will make it look genuine, complete with actual HMRC email addresses), do not click on links to websites or open any attachments, because these can be malicious. Never reveal any personal or card information.

How to report tax scams

HMRC encourages taxpayers to report suspicious emails, texts and phone calls. Visit the government website GOV.UK to find out how.

GoSimpleTax is award-winning software that makes it quick and easy to complete and file your Self Assessment tax return and supplementary pages. It can also prevent you from making basic tax return errors that can later cost you time and money. Thousands of sole traders, landlords and others love GoSimpleTax. Start your FREE trial today!

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Blog content is for information purposes and over time may become outdated, although we do strive to keep it current. It's written to help you understand your Tax's and is not to be relied upon as professional accounting, tax and legal advice due to differences in everyone's circumstances. For additional help please contact our support team or HMRC.

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