HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is advising UK taxpayers to be vigilant against spam and other fraud emails. According to a recent accounting news article in Accountancy Age, the financial new organisation started by UK politician Michael Heseltine, in Summer 2010 HMRC managed to close down nearly 200 fraud sites in response to increasing volumes of spoof phishing emails. .
Incredibly HMRC are reputedly asking for consumers who receive dodgy emails to check the official HMRC site to verify it is a spoof. Almost all internet users know that they should not “click on links’ contained in suspicious emails, or open attachments”. However it is worth repeating because fraudsters are constantly changing their tactics to avoid spam filters and increase the bogus and fake authenticity of their correspondence. The volume and sophistication of the spoof emails means that even experienced web users can caught napping. Hackers go to any lengths since the information they get is so valuable if they succeed.,
Internet Security experts advise that scams concerning tax rebates, child benefit or personal finance work best. Any offer of reclaiming free money and the offer of so called facilities to reclaim some cash, on the back of a bogus recognised brand name with ‘intrinsic trust value such as PayPal, A UK High Street Bank or a UK Government organisation such as HMRC, makes it a powerful cocktail with which to intoxicate vulnerable consumers. The potentially highly sensitive personal information can then be sold on or misused for malicious means.
There is also a risk of losing money personally from these spoof phishing activities and fraudulent scams. UK banks and financial institutions have a responsibility to maintain and constantly improve security to counteract hacking and any unauthorised access to liquid funds online.”
HMRC have observed fraudsters using direct marketing techniques via cal centres to target UK taxpayers to obtain invaluable personal and financial information.
A classic fraud involves consumers receiving a phone call informing them of a tax rebate. First they require verification, and request bank card details as the preferred method. If successful, attempts are made to withdraw money from the account, using the details provided. If you are in the unfortunate position of having had this happen to you, you are advised to report the matter immediately to your bank and they are likely to be able to put a stop on your account before the fraudsters succeed in make a demand for money. Time is most certainly of the essence.
HMRC claim that they only ever contact consumers regarding a tax refund in writing by post. and advise any consumer receiving a bogus phone call not to provide any information to the fraudster, and to report it to the police and HMRC as soon as possible.”
It isn’t just personal taxpayers who are at risk. Small and Medium sized UK enterprises have also been widely targeted and they are advised to contact their company accountants if they have any concerns.
UK Golfer Paul Casey has revealed that participants in this years Ryder Cup competition may be forced to pay tax on incomes.
The issue was revealed after Casey was given advice by his UK accountant on returning to the UK from his new home in Arizona.
Players will be unhappy with this ‘tax’ as they do not actually get paid for competing in the cup which is played in Britain and the US on alternating years. The tax will be taken from any other monies earned such as sponsorship or prize winnings.
The European team is understood to still be in discussion with HMRC about the issue arguing that they should receive the same benefits as athletes in the London Olympics in 2012.
Olympic Champion Usain Bolt was also involved in a dispute with HMRC recently over an event he was due to be competing in in Crystal Palace. The Taxman again wanted to take a cut out of any winnings the 100m World Record Holder won.
An exemption has also been put in place for next years Champions League final which will be held at Wembley. A common thread through these problems suggests that the taxman is willing to make exceptions when it comes to team sports stars but not individual athletes.
A change proposed by HMRC will soon allow users to see real-time information on employees but the scheme has already been met with criticism.
Tax Directors have said for the project to be even remotely useful or usable it will need sufficient funding and a sustained pilot program.
Baker Tilly have warned that there is a “long way to go” before software can be implemented at any stage.
Examples of previous projects such as the merger of the National Insurance and PAYE system have been highlighted as examples to learn from.
The system which will give an employee a single computerised tax account which brings together employment and NI records, giving HMRC the real time information of all payments made.
The proposal also states that it would do away with employees having to obtain the correct tax codes through filling in forms, in turn making the process a lot easier.
The software behind this proposal has already been invested in and test account created, but as previous projects have shown it will need piloting thoroughly before being released to the public.
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