As warnings about fake HMRC scams increase, one of the UK’s leading tax preparation specialists has issued his top tips to avoid falling foul of these scams. David Redfern, director of DSR Tax Refunds, issued his advice as reports stated that UK families were now losing £1 million per day as a result of the increasingly sophisticated scams, with those recently targeted receiving phone calls falsely informing them that they are going to be taken to court by HMRC if they don’t pay up immediately.
Firstly, Redfern urged taxpayers receiving such calls to remain calm enough to think clearly, stating “it can be hard to stay composed when faced with such threats, but if you are unfortunate enough to be facing genuine HMRC court action, you will be informed of this by letter by HMRC. The first you know of the court action won’t be a phone call threatening you with immediate legal action unless you pay up – HMRC will have been in contact by post, most likely on more than one occasion, in order to sort out the issue without the requirement for court action – so if you receive one of these calls, take a deep breath and give yourself time to respond with a clear head”. He added that no government department will call unannounced to demand payment to prevent court action, noting that court action is always taken as an act of last resort.
Redfern’s second tip urged taxpayers to use their critical thinking skills, noting that some scammers had requested payment via unconventional methods, such as iTunes vouchers. He stated that “no government department, HMRC included, will request payment for unpaid taxes or penalties in iTunes vouchers or other digital vouchers. That alone should ring warning bells for any taxpayer – all payments made to HMRC are through appropriate payment methods, and just as you wouldn’t expect to pay for your car tax by iTunes vouchers, nor should you expect to pay your income tax that way”. Again, he urged taxpayers to take the time to think clearly about what the scam phone call, text or email was requesting and to question whether that was appropriate for a reputable organisation.
Redfern added that HMRC will always inform taxpayers about overpayments and underpayments by letter, on HMRC letterheaded paper, stating that “texts, emails and phone calls regarding tax rebates or requirements to pay unpaid taxes can be safely disregarded as phishing emails or scams”. He added that taxpayers who required additional reassurance could contact HMRC directly for peace of mind rather than responding to the unsolicited communication.
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