Surge in HMRC fraud blamed on the digital tax system

Jun 24, 2019

Tax experts have said the “digitisation” of Britain’s tax regime has opened the doors for scammers to take advantage of gaps in HMRC’s technology.

Phone scams targeting taxpayers have risen dramatically, with more than 100,000 reported to HM Revenue and customer (HMRC) in 2018-19 alone.

Experts at Whitley Stimpson, one of the largest independent accountancy practices in the area, are keen to advise on the best way for businesses and individuals to digitise their accounts and comply with HMRC’s digital advances including Making Tax Digital (MTD) whilst protecting themselves from scams.

John Skinner, a senior manager at the Banbury office, says: “It’s clear that MTD has created an opportunity for fraudsters. Since HMRC has begun using multiple means of communication including text, email and social media as well as phone, this has provided ‘chancers’ with further opportunities to con unsuspecting taxpayers.”

Phone calls have been cited as the most common ways scammers will make contact with their victims. In some cases, fraudsters appear to have genuine HMRC phone numbers, often beginning with 0300, leading victims to believe the calls were real and to fall foul of the scam.

However, in response to this increase the HMRC has introduced new controls that should stop scammers being able to replicate its official phone numbers. The HMRC also claims its “proactive intelligence” work has helped to identify thousands of scams before they are reported by victims and that it has requested more than 12,000 phishing websites be taken down.

John continues: “Whilst HMRC is doing a lot to prevent this fraudulent activity, it must be remembered that it causes huge distress to taxpayers who are trying to be fully compliant. It is critical that businesses and individuals plan effectively for the full roll out of MTD, remain well informed and follow the advice of experts so they can avoid scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact.”

HMRC advises that it will never contact taxpayers out of the blue and ask for bank details or passwords and has warned people not to give out private information via unexpected phone calls, text messages or emails claiming to be from HMRC.

Whitley Stimpson has a team of highly qualified specialists with offices in Banbury, Bicester, High Wycombe and Witney, who can advise on all MTD matters. There is also more information and useful videos on the Whitley Stimpson website.

For further details, please contact John Skinner, on 01295 270200