Heightened security around SEISS grants

HMRC will be increasing the validation checks relating to the fourth round of Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grants in an effort to combat fraudulent claims.

The Chancellor outlined the fourth SEISS grant in the Spring Budget 2021, which will now take account of 2019/20 trading profits unlike the three previous grants. Unfortunately, there are ample opportunities for the process to fall down, particularly as a lot of first-time claimants may not have had much interaction with HMRC before. But the appeal of potentially receiving £15,000 across two claims may prove too much of a draw for fraudsters, which is why HMRC feel action is necessary.

What checks will HRMC make?

HMRC will be asking 100,000 traders who started their business in 2019/20 to confirm their identity to be able to make their first SEISS claim – an inadequate response will prevent the trader progressing with their claim. The initial request will be in writing, but anyone without internet access will then struggle, as HMRC will subsequently request documents be lodged with them via a Dropbox account – HMRC will not be following up 100,000 letters, only a portion of them.

How HMRC will be in contact to follow-up

For anyone contacted by HMRC as a follow-up to the initial letter, the process then requires the following further steps.

  1. Following receipt of HMRC’s letter (which will arrive at any point to mid-April), HMRC will follow up with a phone call within the following fortnight which is where potential issues start to arise, given that the number may be ‘withheld’. Complications may occur due to the number of scams perpetrated by people claiming to be from HMRC. Taxpayers should therefore ensure HMRC have the correct phone number by calling 0800 024 1222. There is space for a phone number to be included on a tax return, but not everyone will have necessarily completed it. This HMRC contact number has been set up for this particular purpose only – call handlers will not be able to assist with any other issues. HMRC will try to call taxpayers three times – if these calls fail, no grant claim will be allowed
  2. HMRC will ask for an email address from the taxpayer as part of the follow-up phone call, and the taxpayer must agree to accept a link to a Dropbox account that will be sent to their email address
  3. The taxpayer will then receive an e-mail from HMRC containing the Dropbox link – but the email could easily be diverted to a junk folder. Via the Dropbox account, the taxpayer will have to submit scanned copies of some form of ID (e.g. passport or driving licence), together with three months of business bank statements from 2019/20 to prove that their business traded in that year. In the absence of UK bank statements, the trader will need to agree what other evidence HMRC will accept during the initial phone conversation. The link to the Dropbox account expires after 2 days and if this deadline is missed, no SEISS grant claim can be made

It’s quite likely that fraudsters will attempt to replicate these routines to scam the unwary. If you are a victim of an HMRC scam suffering financial loss, report it to Action Fraud.

Further details on the SEISS fourth grant can be found via the links below.

GOV.UK

New self-employed grants