Thursday, April 1, 2010

New HMRC penalties for anyone responding to scam emails

Regular readers will know that I always try to share insights into topical tax related news stories. Today, I need to share with you details of a secret (until now) plan that HMRC been working on. It is a rather sneaky way to secure tax geared penalties from taxpayers and agents (ie: accountants and tax advisers). The problem is that there is no easy way to avoid this.

As you may know HMRC have become increasingly concerned by the scam tax rebate emails being sent out by fraudsters. HMRC are also annoyed as they get the blame whenever anyone gets ripped off after disclosing their personal data in response to the fraudsters requests. Todate HMRC have simply publicised the fake emails and warned taxpayers not to respond or to provide any confidential data. But too many people ignore this advice so it is about to become an offence to respond to such scam emails.

HMRC's new plan will see them checking on whether taxpayers and agents are taking HMRC's advice. As of today HMRC will call taxpayers and agents at random and ask them to quote their 12 digit internet filing passwords. Whatever happens you must not reveal the password to HMRC as this would breach all security protocols. And, according to some little publicised small print in the Budget Red Book it will result in you becoming liable for a new tax geared penalty.

On the other hand, if HMRC call you today and you do the right thing, ie: refuse to divulge your password, you will be transferred to a pre-recorded facility. This will invite you to press a number on your telephone keypad. The different numbers signifying your feedback:

Press 1 if you have forgotten the first part of your password
Press 2 if you have forgotten the second part of your password
Press 3 if you have forgotten more than two characters from your password
Press 4 if you have forgotten where you wrote your password down
Press 5 if you have forgotten the code you used when you wrote your password down
Press 6 if you would not disclose your password to anyone even if you could remember it
Press 7 if you have an offshore account and have forgotten to tell HMRC about it
Press 8 if you would like to hear these options again as you have forgotten why you need to choose a number on your telephone keypad
Press 9 if you think this might be an April Fool.

In the unlikely event that you get a call from HMRC asking you about your password today. I suggest you press 9.

Have a good day! And, if you're a registered user of the Tax Advice Network website, do look out for this week's genuine practical tax tips newsletter that will be with you this afternoon. We wouldn't want you to think any of the commercial, timely and topical advice it contains is a joke!

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