Self-assessment customers urged to watch out for tax return scams

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has urged self-assessment customers to be on the lookout for scam texts, emails and phone calls from fraudsters in the run up to the tax return deadline.

The Government department has made the warning after it received over 130,000 reports about tax scams in the past 12 months to September 2023.

Of these scam attempts, 58,000 were offering free tax rebates.

HMRC’s director general for customer services, Myrtle Lloyd, said: “HMRC is reminding customers to be wary of approaches by fraudsters in the run up to the self-assessment deadline. Criminals are great pretenders who try and dupe people by sending emails, phone calls and texts which mimic government messages to make them appear authentic.

“Unexpected contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so take your time and check HMRC scams advice on.”

HMRC said that with around 12 million people expected to submit at self-assessment tax return for the 2022/23 tax year before the 31 January 2024 deadline, fraudsters will prey on customers by impersonating HMRC.

Scammers take a range of approaches, with some offering a rebate, other telling customers they need to update their tax details or threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion.

Head of personal finance at AJ Bell, Laura Suter, added: “Many of these people filing will be doing so for the first time ever, navigating a complicated system often without help. It means they are far more likely to fall prey to scammers who send a text asking for details or promising them a tax rebate. This is particularly the case for those filing close to the deadline and in a hurry – we’d expect to see a spike in scams around the 31 January deadline for filing online.

“Whether you’re due to file a tax return or not, you need to have your wits about you – scammers will target anyone, not just those who have to file for self-assessment. If you get any message or email out of the blue that appears to be from the tax office, don’t respond directly to it. Instead, contact HMRC using details published on the official website to check whether the information is legit.”

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