HMRC has given examples of genuine messages and contact details to help you work out whether you’re being scammed.
Here’s how to work out whether you’ve got an HMRC scam email. Plus, as scammers can pretend to be HMRC over the phone and in other text-based messages, find out how to spot other fake communication.
HMRC might get in touch with you over email for lots of different reasons, including to send you an annual tax summary, to confirm your details for Making Tax Digital, and to promote the personal tax account.
If it’s a fake HMRC email, you’ve likely got an HMRC phishing email. Phishing refers to criminals sending out scam messages purporting to be from real organisations, in the hope of getting sensitive personal or financial information.
HMRC emails won’t ask for your personal or financial information. Here’s a list of genuine HMRC email contacts.
Annual tax summary – you might get an alert to say your tax summary is ready, which will use the subject line ‘Your Annual Tax Summary is ready’. It won’t ask you for any personal or financial details.
Selling products through online marketplaces – HMRC is reminding businesses that sell goods through online marketplaces about their VAT obligations. The email will ask you to get in touch with HMRC.
Employer bulletins – if you have staff and you’ve signed up to get informational bulletins from HMRC, you’ll get emails with the subject line ‘Important information for employers’.
Help and support emails – HMRC sends guides to help taxpayers, sometimes with links to webinars, YouTube videos, and other digital products.
Making Tax Digital for VAT – if you’ve signed up to Making Tax Digital using the appropriate page, HMRC will send you an email within 72 hours confirming that you can send VAT returns.
Promoting the personal tax account – when you call HMRC to discuss your taxes, they might direct you to signing up for a personal tax account if you haven’t already, which helps you manage your taxes online. If you don’t want to do it over the phone, you can do it over email – HMRC will send you the necessary information.
SEISS – if you’ve claimed a Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant before, HMRC might contact you with details of the fifth (and final) grant. It will give you details about claiming and a warning about scams. It won’t ask for personal information or include links.
VAT – HMRC sends a number of emails about VAT. These include debt reminders, information about VAT registration, and reminders about when VAT returns are due. As usual, they won’t ask for personal or financial information.
This is a selection of communication your business might get from HMRC, but be sure to check out the full list of email contact at gov.uk.
At the moment, HMRC customers might receive calls if they’re behind on payments or if they’ve been chosen to take part in research.
Debt management – if you’re behind on payments, HMRC might send you a voice prompt. This can be to your landline or mobile and will give details for paying HMRC, or a helpline for you to get in touch with. You might also receive messages about the importance of using the right payment details when making payments, but these won’t ask for personal or financial information.
Research – HMRC is working with a research agency called IFF Research between 1 June 2021 and 31 December 2021. HMRC is trying to find out how common it is for people to have casual work arrangements, as well as which sectors have these arrangements and where they’re found. IFF Research might call you, but taking part is voluntary and your responses are confidential.
Scammers often exploit a phone call’s sense of urgency and can apply pressure to get what they want. If you feel pressured into giving personal or financial details, don’t be afraid to put the phone down – you can always find an organisation’s official details and get in touch with them separately.
Gov.uk only lists one instance of HMRC contact by letter.
Claiming repayment for Self Assessment – if you’ve claimed for a repayment, HMRC may contact you by letter to ask for more information. You need to respond to the letter as soon as you can to get your repayment quickly. HMRC says you can call 0300 200 3310 or use the income tax enquiries service to check that the letter is genuine.
HMRC says it’s using a new number to send text messages that may be different to the one you’ve got a message from before. As with other types of communication, HMRC won’t ask you for personal or financial information in a text.
As a business owner, be sure to look out for these text messages.
Texts about Self Assessment, VAT, PAYE and corporation tax – if you have debts or outstanding returns due, HMRC may text you to request payment, request overdue returns, or update your personal or business address. The texts will either direct you to gov.uk or ask you to call HMRC.
HMRC might also text you about tax credits, surveys, and other claims – see the full list of text contacts here.
HMRC says that sometimes you’ll get more than one type of message from them, for example, a letter followed up by an email. This is to give customers extra security. Here’s what to watch out for – as always, you won’t be asked for personal or financial information.
Multi-factor authentication – when you try logging into your online tax account, you’ll get an access code by text or voice message as an extra security step. This is to stop someone logging in, even if they know your details. If you activate multi-factor authentication, you’ll need your Government Gateway user ID and password, and a mobile or landline device to log in.
National minimum wage errors – if you employ people, HMRC might get in touch to give you information about common errors surrounding the national minimum wage and national living wage. Look out for emails with information, as well as letters. You can check it’s genuine by calling 03000 557755.
SEISS checks – if HMRC thinks you’re eligible for the fifth SEISS grant, you’ll get a letter followed up by a phone call to carry out pre-claim verification checks. HMRC will check your identity and business activity. They’ll ask for your email address and will email a link to Dropbox, which you can use to upload one form of identity and your bank statements.
Tax basis research – HMRC is working with research agency Kantar on getting insights into reforming tax basis periods. You might get a letter or phone call if you’re a sole trader or partnership and your financial year end isn’t 31 March or 5 April. Taking part is voluntary and the research is running until 30 September 2021.
VAT register inactivity – you might get a phone call or email if HMRC doesn’t think you need to be VAT registered anymore, based on VAT account inactivity. You’ll be asked to confirm whether you still need to be registered and to give some basic information on where you’re trading.
You can report suspicious messages to HMRC online, by email and by text. HMRC might share your contact details with other organisations to help stop the scams. As always, remember that HMRC won’t ask you for personal or financial information or send tax rebate notifications over email or text.
Email – use this HMRC email address to report a suspicious email – [email protected]
Online – if you’ve had a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from HMRC, there’s an online form you can use to get in touch with HMRC. You’ll have to enter your email address.
Be sure to mention what you’re reporting in the subject line, for example ‘Suspicious tax rebate offer’.
Text – if you’ve got a text you think is a scam, forward it to 60599.
If you’ve answered suspicious communication with your details, get in touch with your bank (and other organisations, depending on the information you’ve given) straight away.
You can also use these resources to help report scams and get tips on avoiding them:
How have you handled any scam messages in the past? Let us know in the comments below.
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