Millions yet to file tax return as scammers circle

          As fraudsters circle, millions of people have yet to file their tax returns.

More than three million people have yet to complete their self-assessment tax returns, despite the fact that the deadline has been pushed out to January 31.

3.5 million people, or 29 per cent of those who use the self-assessment system, have yet to file, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Those who are up to a month late will not be fined by the IRS.

Taxpayers have also been cautioned that scammers are exploiting the deadline as a “smokescreen” to steal money, according to campaigners.

Fines Waived

Self-assessment forms are needed for over 12 million persons, including the self-employed and those with several sources of income. The great majority do so via the internet. For paper returns, there is an earlier deadline. Given that some persons have been delayed by Covid, HMRC will waive the standard £100 charge for submitting late online for the second year in a row until the end of February.

Furthermore, anybody who is unable to pay their self-assessment tax by 31 January will not be charged a late payment penalty provided they pay it in full by 1 April or set up a time to pay agreement (which distributes the expense over time).

From the 1st of February, interest will be charged to the outstanding tax debt.

“We recognise some customers may struggle to reach the self-assessment deadline on 31 January, which is why we have waived penalties for one month, allowing them more time to complete their responsibilities,” said Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director-general for customer services.

Fraudsters take advantage of the last-minute rush before the deadline by sending out bogus emails pretending to be from HMRC. Emails and text messages claiming a rebate is due, as well as threats of legal action, are common ruses.

Whatever the con, the ultimate goal of the con artists is to either steal money straight from bank accounts or collect enough personal information to apply for credit in their victims’ identities.

According to Charlie Shakeshaft, creator of Individual Protection Solutions, which maintains a membership scam warning, the scammers take advantage of the fact that many individuals expect contact from HMRC at this time of year, given that it sends out four million legal letters and SMS.

In the previous year, HMRC has made significant progress in lowering the number of so-called phishing emails.

According to the report, new cyber controls have prevented 90 per cent of the most convincing SMS messages from reaching the public, and 51 persons were detained in June last year at two contact centres in Delhi, India, dedicated to supporting HMRC frauds.

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