Deadlines loom and so do the scammers

As the 31st January 2021 annual tax return deadline looms HMRC is reminding people to take extra care in ensuring communications that look like they’re from Government departments are genuine.

Both individuals and businesses are increasingly being targeted by criminals – especially as we spend more time at home, and online.

In the last 12 months HMRC has responded to 846,000 referrals of suspicious contact from the public and reported over 15,000 malicious web pages for removal.

Unsurprisingly in this time of financial uncertainty, almost 500,000 of the recorded scams offered bogus tax rebates, but criminals may target anything from personal details to business information as well as asking for banking particulars and direct payments.

We know that criminals take advantage of the Self Assessment deadline to panic customers into sharing their personal or financial details and even paying bogus ‘tax due’.

Karl Khan Interim Director General for Customer Services, HMRC

It’s surprising how legitimate some of the communications look, with many emails and landing pages being good enough to trick even the most vigilant of users. You can see examples of known scam correspondence on gov.uk.

Keeping your business safe

The National Cyber Security Centre has a wealth of advice on keeping sensitive information safe so it’s worth taking a look to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep you, your family, your employees and your business protected against fraud.

Their Small Business Guide to Cyber Security outlines five things to focus on:

  1. Backing up data
  2. Protection from malware
  3. Keeping smart devices safe
  4. Using passwords to protect data
  5. Avoid phishing attacks

And provides ways to help you address them.

Staying ahead of the scammers

One of the best ways to avoid falling for financial scams is to make sure you’re managing your responsibilities proactively. Reducing the panic as you approach deadlines will minimise the effectiveness of fear-based communications and ensure you’re less likely to make bad decisions during busy periods.

As well as the 31 January Self Assessment deadline, the 31 December fiscal year-end is imminent for many UK businesses.

Companies House are urging firms across the UK not to leave filing to the last minute to avoid potential penalties – a particular risk if paper accounts are submitted and errors are found.

By asking companies to submit their accounts early and preferably online, we are trying to ensure that they experience peace of mind during the busy end of year filing period.

Louise Smyth Chief Executive , Companies House

Online filing portals, third-party software, and using experienced financial planners like MPA all help reduce exposure to delays and fraud.

If you’d like to get some peace of mind or even just help during this uncertain and busy time, please do get in touch.

Find out more about our tax and accounting services here.