Tax & admin · 8 January 2016

HMRC warns against scam emails ahead of self-assessment deadline

Sophisticated cyber fraud is expected to increase as HMRC’s 31 January online self-assessment deadline approaches
HMRC has issued a warning to taxpayers to remain especially vigilant against scam emails throughout January, as cyber criminals in the run up to the 31 January self-assessment tax deadline make the most of the peak in online activity by carrying out increasingly sophisticated frauds.

Fraudulent emails often appear legitimate, HMRC said, and those filing self-assessment tax returns need to ensure the use of official forms.

HMRC’s director of security and information Jonathan Lloyd White said: When using our online service, I would urge all our customers to be vigilant, and remember that HMRC will never send an email to ask for your personal information or password, or include a link or attachment.

Other tell-tale signs that an email may be fraudulent include the offer of a payment or refund of some kind, the inclusion of personal information such as bank details or a Unique Tax Reference (UTR) and a personal HMRC email address to respond to.

the methods that fraudsters use to get information are constantly changing, so people need to be alert, White added.

Of the ten million UK taxpayers completing online self-assessment forms ahead of 31 January, roughly 40 per cent will receive fake emails pretending to be from HMRC, a survey
by digital authentication vendor Miracl has found.

HMRC has encouraged taxpayers to highlight any suspicious looking emails providing an official HMRC email address to forward them too. Since July 2014, HMRC reports that it has identified and shut down over 22, 000 fraudulent websites.

The warning comes after HMRC came under heavy criticism in December from investigators at the National Audit Office (NAO).

Claiming HMRC was failing to properly address fraud and tax evasion and avoidance, a NAO report found that small and micro businesses and individuals with complicated financial affairs were major contributors to tax fraud costing the government around 16bn a year in total.



Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.