HMRC advises customers to stay safe online ahead of the 2016 self-assessment tax return

Are you planning on making a resolution this New Year? We all do – even accountants. However, if you are considering making a resolution this New Year, then it might be worth paying heed to the advice that HM Revenues and Customs is currently recommending. What advice is that? Well, it’s simply this: stay safe online, stay vigilant and boost your online protection ahead of the 31st January 2016 self-assessment tax return deadline. Why is HM Revenues and Customs issuing such advice?

Well, because it knows the threat of online fraud is increasing exponentially, and its customers are a prime target.

Over the course of the next six weeks, HMRC will be issuing as many as one-million self-assessment emails to customers, reminding them of the impending 31st January deadline. Unfortunately, whilst HMRC may have strict protocols in place to help customers protect themselves against online scammers; it never the less remains one of the most phished brands in the world. Phishers are active all year round, but when self-assessment deadline day approaches, the levels of sophisticated fraud increase dramatically.

So what are the main concerns for the Treasury? Well, HMRC is worried that customers will be duped by phishing emails that, at face value, appear both relevant and genuine. It has, therefore, issued the following advice so that customers will be able to tell whether any emails they receive are genuine or fraudulent.

Any HMRC email to customers about personal tax or tax credits will never include or ask for any of the following information:

  • Personal or financial information of any sort; including the customer’s full address, full postcode, Unique Tax Reference (UTR), or any bank details.
  • Financial information which refers to specific figures, tax computations or specific facts about a customer.
  • Email attachments.
  • Web links.
  • An offer of a repayment or refund.
  • A personal HMRC email address to send a response to.

HMRC’s advice for taxpayers is that every customer should be vigilant when filling in their online tax return for the 2014-15 tax year. In order to achieve that HM Treasury strongly recommends that if customers want to ensure their data is kept as safe as possible then all computers should be guarded by up-to-date anti-virus protection, the latest version of their internet browser and by keeping passwords safe and changing them regularly.

Speaking about the recommendations, Jonathan Lloyd White, director of security and information and departmental security officer (DSO), HMRC, said:

“Handling the personal details of every taxpayer in the country is a huge responsibility and the security of this data, especially online, is a top priority for HMRC.”

“We are committed to customers’ online security, but the methods that fraudsters use to get information are constantly changing so people need to be alert.”

“When using our online services I would urge all our customers to be vigilant, and remember that HMRC will never send an email to ask for your personal information or password, or include a link or attachment. We want to help you stay safe online. Visit cyberstreetwise.com for more advice.”

Whilst HMRC is committed to keeping its customers safe online, it is not tasked with ensuring that they pay the correct amount of tax within their self-assessment tax return. So if you are planning on submitting your self-assessment tax return, but are unsure of your tax liabilities, then our advice would be to consult a professional accountant. Steven Glicher accountants can work with you to take away the worry when submitting your 2014-15 tax return; filing it ahead of the deadline to avoid HMRC’s late filing penalties and allowing you to concentrate on running your business.

For more information, contact Steven Glicher accountants on 0161 485 8007 or email info@stevenglicher.co.uk

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