In the UK, the deadlines for tax returns and payments varies according to the nature of your business. Corporation Tax and VAT returns and payment dates – and Companies House returns – depend on dates of incorporation and registration. PAYE and NI return and payment dates are also specific to your business. For Self-Assessment (in the case of sole traders and partnerships), the date for returns is January 31st, and payments on account January 31st and July 31st.
Fraudulent emails can be received at any time of the year, but it is during the periods leading up to these dates that they become more prevalent as many businesses are thinking about their tax affairs.
Another risk is that of being coaxed into using an unofficial service instead of the HMRC website, of the type which normally charge elevated and often exorbitant fees for services provided free or at a lower cost by the government. These are generally known as copycat websites.
Protecting your business
- Remember that HMRC or other government organisations will never inform you about a tax rebate or penalty – or request personal payment information details – by email, text or social networking post.
- Beware of emails which:
- Have a sender’s email address which is different from the HMRC or other trusted organisation’s website address.
- Are sent from a completely different address or a free webmail address.
- Do not use your proper name, but a non-specific greeting such as “Dear customer”, “Dear Business Owner”, “Dear Taxpayer” or no greeting at all.
- Incorporate a sense of urgency; for example the threat that unless you act immediately your account may be closed or you may miss a payment or refund claim deadline.
- Request confidential business or employee information such as username, password or bank details.
- Be cautious with emails that contain attachments. If in any doubt, do not click on the attachment and delete the email, do not respond and do not forward it unless to report it to the authentic organisation.
- Be on the lookout for copycat websites, which may well charge a high fee for a service which would be free, or at lower cost, from the official government site. These sites will cost your business unnecessary money and possibly not even deliver any service at all, despite being featured prominently on Google and other search engines.
What to do if you receive suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC
If you think you have been a victim of fraud:
Report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, contact Police Scotland on 101.