Is it genuine HMRC correspondence or a scam?

I have seen an increase in scam calls and phishing emails targeted at business owners and individuals which are getting increasingly convincing. A number of my clients have been affected by erroneous emails or phone calls and although a lot of what I will say below may seem like common sense, I think it’s important to be aware of.

A couple of examples of scam calls and phishing emails I’ve come across worryingly regularly are as follows:

A phone call or voicemail pretending to be from HMRC claiming a lawsuit has been filed against you for unpaid tax. You must immediately call back to make payment before the case proceeds further.

There are of course cases where taxpayers fall behind with payments, but reminders would come in the form of letters and eventually be passed to a debt collector if left ignored. In some cases of higher levels of debt a HMRC inspector would knock on the door to speak to you in person and discuss the debt. This is often to verify that the business is still trading and arrange a payment plan for the debt.

Before making any payments requested, always check with us that the amount being requested matches the amount you owe. We can check this information for you quickly online with HMRC and verify account details and reference numbers in order to make payments to HMRC.

An email from what seems to be a genuine HMRC or .gov.uk email address asking you to make a payment for corporation tax or personal tax immediately. It will list your corporation tax reference or personal tax UTR number (which won’t usually be correct) and account details. The email will be formatted to match the .gov.uk website and will look like a genuine HMRC message.

These emails look convincing, especially as the email address ending .gov.uk will appear genuine. If you dig deeper though, you will see that the actual email address it has come from is something unrecognisable and it is the contact name that appears in your inbox that looks like the genuine email address. This will have been set to match a genuine HMRC source.

Anyone who has mislaid their tax reference numbers will know that trying to get them from HMRC can be like getting blood from a stone. They will never send them out in emails or tell you them over the phone and will only ever send them out by post.

If you get any emails like this please forward straight on to us before taking any other action. We can confirm they are a scam and report them to HMRC.

HMRC are aware of a number of these scams and keep a list of genuine communication on their website. You can see it here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/genuine-hmrc-contact-and-recognising-phishing-emails

They also keep a record of scams they are aware of:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phishing-and-bogus-emails-hm-revenue-and-customs-examples

If ever you’re in doubt just pick up the phone or forward the email and ask us to check for you – it’s advice which is included in our fixed fees.

Written by Sarah

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