Tax demands fraud risk Online fraudsters may pose as HMRC officials

08 September 2010

As HMRC starts sending out unexpected tax demands to over a million people, there are concerns that fraudsters may prey on the unwary with phishing emails and bogus phone calls.

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You get a longer deadline if you fill in your return online

Due to errors in PAYE codes for 2008-9 and 2009-10, over one million people will get unexpected tax demands from HMRC, while four million will receive tax refunds. A recent report from the National Audit Office revealed that millions more could be contacted over PAYE errors from earlier years, going back as far as 2004-5. The Audit Office has identified a backlog of 18.2m 'un-reconciled' cases from 2007-8 and previous tax years, affecting around 15 million people. 

Fraud risk

The large number of people who may be contacted by HMRC is also a target for online and telephone fraudsters. HMRC warns against emails purporting to come from its agents and advises people to treat these with caution. Online demands for personal details should be viewed as 'phishing' emails and ignored. 

HMRC points out that it normally communicates by post, and says the latest notices about overpaid or underpaid tax will take the form of a letter. 

The HMRC website gives the following advice: 'HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) would not inform customers of a tax rebate via email, or invite them to complete an online form to receive a rebate of tax. Do not visit the website contained within the email or disclose any personal or payment information.'

Further information

Individuals who receive a tax letter from HMRC can contact their tax office for further information. The Chartered Institute of Tax has issued a step-by-step guide for those affected. The Which? website has more information on phishing and ID Fraud, or you can also visit If you receive a phishing email purporting to come from HMRC, forward this to and then delete it.

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