Scams  

HMRC rebate scam targets taxpayers ahead of deadline

HMRC rebate scam targets taxpayers ahead of deadline

Warnings have been sounded over a text message purporting to be HM Revenue & Customs offering a tax rebate.  

Reports of fake text messages claiming to be from the taxman have fuelled cause for concern weeks before the HMRC self-assessment submission deadline, with would-be victims taking to social media to warn of the scam. 

The text claims recipients have a "pending tax rebate" and urges them to click on a link to calculate how much they are owed. 

In response to one concerned taxpayer on Twitter, HMRC said it does not send notifications of a tax rebate or ask consumers to disclose personal or payment information via email or text message. 

An example of the fake message. Source: The Accountancy Partnership

Online accountants The Accountancy Partnership urged first-time business owners to be "particularly cautious" of any communications claiming to be from HMRC ahead of the self-assessment deadline on January 31. 

Lee Murphy, director at The Accountancy Partnership, warned fraudulent HMRC communications were often sophisticated, especially to the untrained eye.

Mr Murphy said: "The website link contained in the message is also a giveaway as it is not the official government domain that all HMRC services are hosted on.

"It is understandable why someone may be caught out by these messages as often they promise a cash reward, which would help many stretched Britons at this moment in time."

As of January 4 this year HMRC had received 6.6m tax returns out of a total 12.1m returns due to be submitted before the end of this month, meaning 5.4m taxpayers are yet to file.

The deficit has seen some in the industry call on the tax authority to extend the filing deadline by at least one month.

Mr Murphy said: "The huge number of new small businesses and self-employed people who are inexperienced with filing accounts or tax returns are really a goldmine of opportunity for criminals.

"Negotiating closing financial years and the compliance and legislation that comes with owning a business can be difficult at the best of times and especially so if you have never done it before, so it is unsurprising that members of the public are falling foul of these tricks." 

Education is key 

Philip Martin, managing director at Unique Financial Planning, said "consistent and regular education" was key to scam awareness and his firm regularly highlighted risks to clients. 

He added: "Our advice is consistent – do not click through on any financial services link unless you are specifically expecting to receive something from the counterparty.

"Never click through anything that is offering to save money or give money back or with a time bound life, such as an offer until 5pm tomorrow for example - there are always other safer ways to check whether these are genuine or not."

rachel.mortimer@ft.com