As HMRC prepares to send emails and text reminders to self assessment taxpayers, the department is reminding them to be on their guard after nearly 800,000 tax-related scams were reported in the last year
Fraudsters use self assessment to try and steal money or personal information from unsuspecting individuals. In the last year alone, HMRC has responded to 797,010 referrals of suspicious contact from the public and some 357,567 of these offered bogus tax rebates.
In the last 12 months, HMRC has also worked with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to remove more than 1,282 phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams.
The scale of the problem is vast with 8,561 malicious web pages reported for takedown.
The self assessment deadline is 31 January 2022 and taxpayers may expect to hear from HMRC at this time of year.
More than four million emails and SMS will be issued this week to self assessment customers pointing them to guidance and support, prompting them to think about how they intend to pay their tax bill, and to seek support if they are unable to pay in full by 31 January.
However, the department is also warning customers to not be taken in by malicious emails, phone calls or texts, thinking that these are genuine HMRC communications referring to their self assessment tax return.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC director general for customer services, said: ‘Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.
‘HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.
‘Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on gov.uk and find out how to report them to us.’
Criminals use emails, phone calls and text messages to try and dupe individuals, and often mimic government messages to make them appear authentic. They want to trick their victims into handing over money or personal or financial information.
Customers can report suspicious phone calls using a form on gov.uk and should forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to email@example.com and texts to 60599.
HMRC has a dedicated team working on cyber and phone crimes. They use innovative technologies to prevent misleading and malicious communications from ever reaching the taxpayers. Since 2017 these technical controls have blocked 500 million emails. More recently, new controls have prevented 90% of the most convincing SMS messages from reaching the public and controls have been applied to prevent spoofing of most HMRC helpline numbers.
HMRC is also reminding self assessment customers to double check websites and online forms before using them to complete their 2020/21 tax return. People can be taken in by misleading websites designed to make them pay for help in submitting tax returns or charging to connect them to HMRC phone lines.
HMRC’s advice to the public:
• take a moment to think before parting with your money or information;
• if a phone call, text or email is unexpected, don’t give out private information or reply, and don’t download attachments or click on links before checking on gov.uk that the contact is genuine; and
• do not trust caller ID on phones. Numbers can be spoofed.
• it’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you; and
• search ‘scams’ on gov.uk for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams.
• Forward suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599 and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report tax scam phone calls on gov.uk.
• Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud (in Scotland, contact the police on 101).
The Treasury has announced that the National Living Wage will increase next April to £9.50 per hour. This represents a 6.6% increase. These new rates will be effective from 1 April 2022.
From April 2022, minimum pay rates will increase as below.
- NLW (workers aged 23+) — from £8.91 to £9.50 per hour.
- NMW rates:
- workers aged 21–22 — from £8.36 to £9.18 per hour
- workers aged 18–20 — from £6.56 to £6.83 per hour
- workers aged 16–17 — from £4.62 to £4.81 per hour
- apprentice rate — from £4.30 to £4.81 per hour.
As the hospitality industry continues to recover from the pandemic, the Chancellor announced significant discounts on business rates for specific sectors for the next 18 months
Over 90% of retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will receive at least 50% off their business rates bills in 2022-23.
To support local high streets as they adapt and recover from the pandemic, the government is introducing a new temporary business rates relief in England for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties for 2022-23, worth almost £1.7bn.
Up to 400,000 retail, hospitality and leisure properties will be eligible for the new, temporary £1.7bn of business rates relief next year. This will provide support until the next revaluation, helping the businesses that make UK high streets and town centres successful evolve and adapt to changing consumer demands.
Apart from reliefs in response to Covid-19, this is the biggest single-year cut to business rates in 30 years.
Chris Sanger, EY head of tax policy, said: ‘The Chancellor announced a number changes to business rates, which fell short of what some had called for. Nevertheless, business rates were cut in half for a further year for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure business, including local pubs. The half price offer for the next year will help, but does not address the long-term issue.’
The government is also freezing the business rates multiplier in 2022-23, a tax cut worth £4.6bn over the next five years. This will support all ratepayers, large and small, meaning bills are 3% lower than without the freeze.
From 2023, a new business rates relief will support investment in property improvements so that no business will face higher business rates bills for 12 months after making qualifying improvements to a property they occupy.
This will enable businesses to make improvements to their premises that support net zero targets, such as installing solar panels, and enhance productivity as employees return to the workplace.
From 2023, the government will introduce exemptions for eligible plant and machinery used in onsite renewable energy generation and storage, and a new 100% relief for eligible heat networks, to support the decarbonisation of buildings.
In a welcome move for residential property owners, the Budget Red Book confirmed that the current 30-day capital gains tax (CGT) payment window will be extended to 60 days
From 27 October 2021 the deadline for residents to report and pay CGT after selling UK residential property will increase from 30 days after the completion date to 60 days.
For non-UK residents disposing of property in the UK, this deadline will also increase from 30 days to 60 days.
This will ensure that taxpayers have sufficient time to report and pay CGT, as recommended by the Office of Tax Simplification.
When mixed-use property is disposed of by UK residents, legislation will also clarify that the 60-day payment window will only apply to the residential element of the property gain.
Tim Walford-Fitzgerald, private client partner at accountancy firm HW Fisher said: ‘In the small print announced in the Budget, for those selling UK residential property the deadline to file a tax return will be extended from 30 days to 60 days from midnight tonight.
‘This is welcome news and it is positive to see that the Chancellor has recognised the reality of these transactions. To anyone selling a property and up against tight deadlines to receive registrations you can breathe easy.’