Springtime Tax Scams: What tax scams should you be prepared for in 2019?

Running a business in 2019 means being ready to stay ahead of the game with regards to taxation. From paying your taxes on time to making sure you are always up-front and honest about your taxes, it’s important to take immediate action. However, one problem that you might have with regards to taxation is knowing whether or not a message you have received is genuine.

For example, many people receive demands for taxes – or offers for rebates – around April and May. This corresponds with the tax year ending/starting and is a good time to initiate contact. It’s also a good time, though, for scammers to pull a ‘Summertime Tax Scam’. These are dangerous scams that, at this time of year, peak.

What are Springtime Tax Scams?

Springtime Tax Scams are, as the name suggests, tax refund scams pulled off mostly in the spring/summer. You might think that these are rare, or that you would not be the unlikely victim of such a scam. However, phone scams, email scams, and even direct mail scams are becoming increasingly common. Indeed, HMRC announced they had received over 250,000 reports of such scams taking place.

If you receive a message that appears to come from an official HMRC body, you might be likely to comply with the information within. However, it’s the little things that can point out a scam. For example, what address does it come from? Is it from ‘InfoHMRC’ or something similar? Then it may not be legitimate. Fake SMS, email, direct mail, and phone call messages are a major part of the Springtime Tax Scam.

Signs of a potential Springtime Tax refund Scam

The potential signs of a tax refund scam can be hard to spot. First off, you should discount any information requests that involve providing login details, payment details, or payment information directly. This is never likely to be needed by any professional body, and HMRC is making sure it does not ask for this kind of information via email or SMS.

You should also closely look at the URL of any link you are asked to click on. We recommend that you do not click on any links provided in an email from ‘HMRC’ – it could be dangerous. Instead, look out for common signs such as:

  • Specific sums of money being mentioned.

  • Informal language or language that may not sound professional.

  • Issues in the syntax of the content, including how it is proposed.

  • The clarity and detail in any logos provided.

  • The validity of any addresses or contact details on the information provided.

We do not recommend contacting any details, addresses, or phone numbers given on a suspicious letter. Instead, read below and you can find out legitimate sources of contacting HMRC. This lets you know you are contacting the government, and not a phishing company.

As ever, the key is to take action and to pay attention to any signs that might be taking a risk. You should never take any decision you feel uncomfortable with. If you are unsure of anything, contact HMRC through legitimate channels and ask for professional in-house advice. They can verify the validity of the claim and, if needed, help you arrange a solution.

What to do if you believe you are being scammed

First off, you should let HMRC know. You can get the information you need to contact HMRC’s phishing department here. You should look to contact HMRC on official contact lines, too; only use phone numbers taken from the official HMRC website. As is mentioned on the official HMRC website, they will never send notification of a tax rebate, or disclose personal information, via email or text message.

If you receive a message in the post that you believe is not legitimate, then you should contact HMRC immediately. We would recommend going to the nearest HMRC offices in-person, if you can, with the letter. This can then be confirmed by HMRC staff in-house. Otherwise, we recommend you contact HMRC as soon as possible. HMRC has numerous offices, and we suggest you call the office that is most likely associated with the actual notice you have received. If you are being informed of a tax demand, or a tax rebate, then you should contact HMRC based on the system you file your tax through (Self-Assessment, for example).

This can then be checked out by a member of government staff. It could also be forwarded on to the authorities if needed.

Keeping yourself safe from fraud

As ever, vigilance will be absolutely essential to making sure you are not going to fall foul of such a scheme. Tax scams can be hard to keep up with, and part of that comes from the fact they are so widespread. With the ease in which a scam can be cloaked or concealed, you should always have access to professional advice you can trust.

At Devonshire Green, we can help you to evaluate any potential message you receive regarding its legitimacy. With our help, you can quickly determine how likely/unlikely this message is to be serious. Contact us today, and we can help you to determine the severity of any message that you may have received.

Nick Bagga