Mark Baker, from Jacobs Allen, warns taxpayers to look out for genuine letters from the revenue
Everybody is rightly wary of unsolicited communications purporting to be from HMRC, and rightly so.
I have personally received two telephone calls alleging involvement in anti-avoidance activities and threatening arrest unless I pressed 1! Of course, I immediately hung up.
Many of us have received e-mails promising a tax refund and asking for bank details, which must be ignored.
Apparently, fraudsters have found a way of hijacking or creating tax references to make fraudulent repayment claims and HMRC are writing to taxpayers where they believe a repayment claim has not been made by them, but by somebody else using their identity.
However, HMRC do occasionally have to contact taxpayers and you are well advised not to ignore a letter which is currently being issued to some individuals who have claimed a tax repayment on their self-assessment tax return, particularly those who have recently registered for self-assessment.
While this will no doubt thwart many claims which are not genuine, it is inevitable that many taxpayers who have made a genuine repayment claim will receive this letter, known as SURF1. It would be easy to ignore it believing it to be as a scam, but it should be taken extremely seriously. It asks the taxpayer to telephone HMRC within 30 days on their usual helpline number 0300 200 3310 to confirm that they have made a repayment claim. You will need to persevere because there can be a wait of up to one hour to speak to someone on this number, if it is even answered at all. If they do not hear from you, then the repayment claim will be cancelled, and the self-assessment record closed down. This prevents the record being used again for further repayment claims, Covid scheme abuse and other fraudulent activity. However, if the record is yours and is genuine, that is not the result you want.
Assuming that you manage to make contact with HMRC, they will then send a follow up letter, known as SURF2. This asks for a tax form R38 to be completed, copies of bank statements, passport or drivers licence and documents proving your address, again within 30 days. Concerns have been raised about the security of sending such information by post and HMRC are looking into the feasibility of using more secure methods. Failure to reply in time will again mean that your self-assessment record is removed and any claim under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is stopped.
You should send copies of these letters from HMRC to your agent since they will not receive them direct. If you do not have an agent and need help in dealing with them, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the case of genuine repayment claims, this process is likely to cause delays in processing the repayment back to you, so please be aware that you might have to wait a while before you can enjoy that extra money in your bank account.