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Tax return scams – how to stay safe and what to look out for

Concerned you could be affected by a tax scam? We look at what to watch out for.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

Tax return season is upon us. Sadly, scammers use this time of year as an opportunity to get hold of people’s financial and personal details.

The Self-Assessment deadline plays right into scammers’ hands, as they usually impersonate trusted and well-known organisations.

Over the last year, HMRC responded to more than 846,000 reports from the public about suspicious contact from people claiming to be from HMRC. Almost 500,000 of these were offering fake tax rebates.

Scams like these can try and persuade you to send personal or bank details to claim your cash. The scammers can use these details to drain your bank account, or to sell your details on to other criminals.

HMRC is urging people to be more be vigilant and keep a look out. Interim Director General for Customer Services, Karl Khan said:

“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam. Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”

Remember, there’s also no harm in getting a second opinion from someone you trust.

How to spot a tax scam

It’s vital to stay alert. But it’s not always easy to spot tax scams – they’re becoming more sophisticated and harder to recognise. It could be a scam if:

  • It’s unexpected – if you’re contacted out of the blue by someone claiming to be from HMRC, it could be fake so be cautious.
  • You get a text or email about a rebate or offering a repayment – HMRC doesn’t send these.
  • They ask for personal information – this could be your address, postcode, unique taxpayer reference or bank account. HMRC doesn’t ask for any of these in emails or texts.
  • They ask for financial information – unless you’ve specifically given HMRC permission to do this.
  • If what they’ve sent you contains attachments – again, unless you’ve specifically given HMRC permission to send you something with attachments. For example, this could be a guide you’ve requested by email to help with a tax return.
  • You’re asked to transfer money – scammers might threaten people with arrest or imprisonment if a fake tax bill isn’t paid immediately. It can be alarming, but don’t panic and don’t send money under any circumstances.

If you’re concerned about falling victim to a potential scam, there are three ways to stay safe. You can use your Government Gateway account to see whether you have received any contact from HMRC. Or you can contact HMRC directly. HMRC has also published a list of reasons why they might contact you.

What should you do if you’re targeted by a tax scam?

  • Forward details of suspicious calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599 so it can warn other people about them.
  • If you’ve lost money, contact the fraud department of your bank immediately.
  • You should also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report it through their website.

Work for yourself? We’re here to help

It’s hard enough working for yourself, let alone having to think about potential scams around your tax returns. We’re looking at ways we can help people who work for themselves. If you’d like to be notified about upcoming offers, why not register your interest.

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    Important notes

    This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

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