A scam warning has been issued after reports of a text message purporting to be from HMRC promising recipients a tax rebate.
The self-assessment tax return deadline is only weeks away (31st January) and with many self-employed people struggling financially after a tough year, the lure of getting money back could see them fall victim to the scam, says an accountancy expert.
The text message, claiming to be from the taxman, reads: “HMRC: Our records show that you have a pending tax rebate. To calculate how much you are owed, visit https://rebateform-apply.com.”
Lee Murphy, Director at The Accountancy Partnership, said: “Fraudulent HMRC communications can be really sophisticated, especially to the untrained eye.
“While these text messages can look official, many have slight spelling or grammar mistakes. The website link contained in the message is also a giveaway as it is not the official gov.uk domain that all HMRC services are hosted on.
“It is understandable why someone may be caught out by these messages as often they promise cash reward, which would help many stretched Britons.”
Reports of the fake text messages have seen a surge in people taking to social media to warn of the scam.
Responding on Twitter to concerned taxpayers, HMRC said that it would not send notifications of a tax rebate via text or email and nor would it ask for any personal details, including payment information.
HMRC is due to receive a total of 12.1 million tax returns come 31st January. As of 4th January, 6.6 million tax returns had been filed, meaning 5.4 million are yet to be submitted.
Accounting industry groups wrote a joint letter last year to the tax watchdog urging it to relax the deadline for the upcoming self-assessment returns, arguing that the COVID-19 crisis has caused much hardship and may make it difficult for some people submit on time.
While HMRC rejected the calls, it has said that it will accept a “pandemic-related” reason as a valid explanation and waive the £100 late penalty fee.