At the time of writing, the country has been in lockdown for 3 and a half months, and we are just starting to emerge. For many of us, the pandemic has made us reevaluate what is important to us, and made us appreciate what we have. For others, the pandemic has provided the perfect backdrop to take advantage at the worst possible time, and this is evidenced by the rise in scams, particularly those purporting to be from HMRC.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I heard that this is an ‘unprecedented time’ in the last week, but the fact remains that it is, and this typically makes us more inclined to accept things at face value, particularly when something claims to be from what we would regards as an authoritative source, such as HMRC.
Some of the recent scams have included letters telling people that they can claim for the ‘third grant’ under the Coronavirus support measures, text messages telling taxpayers that they are entitled to funding under a coronavirus support plan, and of course emails and texts telling taxpayers that they are due a refund, and to just ‘click here’ to claim it. HMRC is aware of all of these scams and lists them on the gov.uk website.
At least with the above scams, they are sent by letter, text, or email, which gives the recipient a chance to think about whether or not the communication is genuine. Perhaps more worrying are the reports of calls telling people that they owe tax, typically a relatively easily accessible amount of around £2,500, and if they don’t pay it immediately, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. I have had personal experience of this, and even though I knew I didn’t owe any tax, if I didn’t do what I do for a living, I would have been scared, and could easily have fallen for it.
The important thing to remember is that HMRC will never contact you by text or email, and if you receive a letter from them, it is easy to check it is genuine by calling HMRC on 0300 200 3300. Interestingly, we have noticed that many of our clients who have reported being targeted by this scam are women, and the properties where they live have a name rather than a number, however this is based purely on our own experience.
There is of course a perception that HMRC can be very draconian with taxpayers, but that is rarely the case. If tax is owed, they are of course interested in how it can be paid, and whilst interest and penalties may be applied, arrest warrants are reserved solely for the most serious frauds.
Should you be experiencing any issues with your tax affairs, our team of advisers would be very happy to speak to you on a non obligation basis to see whether we might be able to assist.