In the past few days, with the complete mayhem caused by HMRC’s PAYE coding fiasco , clients of ours have received some very strange calls apparently from HMRC asking for payroll references and other data that we know they already have on their records, so please be wary of all unsolicited emails and phonecalls purporting to be from the Tax Office.

Too good to be true

Of course, no one wants to pay more tax than they should, so being told you are due a refund will come as good news.

In some cases, it may seem too good to be true – and that’s because it is.

If you receive a telephone call or an email from someone at HM Revenue & Customs  (HMRC) informing you of a tax refund then the person on the other end of the line is not the taxman but a criminal “phishing” for your bank account details.

HMRC has reported an alarming increase in the number of people being targeted in this way, with a record 83,000 phishing attempts reported in one month alone.

Written Correspondence

In some cases, letters are sent out purporting to be from external companies acting on behalf of HMRC and beginning with a sentence such as “we have reviewed your tax return and our calculations of your last year’s accounts show a tax refund of XXXX is due”. The letter will give a specific figure which the victim is supposedly due.

Phishing  and identity fraud

The thieves ask for bank details in order to pay in the non-existent refund. However, they then use this information to try to take money from the victim’s account.

Victims not only risk having their accounts emptied, but their details could also be sold on to other criminal gangs who may target them further.

Tax office communication policy

HMRC does not contact customers who are due a tax refund by telephone or email. It always writes to them directly, without using any external companies.


Anyone who receives a telephone call from someone offering them a tax refund should not give out any information to the caller but report it to the police immediately. Likewise, they should not reply to emails but forward them on to HMRC at

If you have already responded to a telephone call, email or letter and think you may have been the victim of a scam then you should contact your bank or card issuer as soon as possible.

HMRC Update – September 2010

An email from “HMRC Online Services –’ is being issued, stating the recipient has one new alert message and should log in to their Online Account to read it.  The link in the email directs you to a fraudulent website where personal data is requested.  If you receive this notification, please forward it to

Friendly, approachable, reliable professionals

At George Hay, we are experienced in all areas of taxation and can advise you on whether a genuine tax refund is due. If you are in any doubt about any communications you have received regarding a refund, please speak to us.

Disclaimer: This article is for general guidance only.  All taxation planning should only be undertaken after appropriate professional advice.  George Hay Chartered Accountants are registered to carry on audit work and regulated for a range of investment business activities by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

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