With Christmas over and the self-assessment deadline fast approaching, January can be a busy time for many taxpayers.

Unfortunately, many phishing scams use tax-related stress to their advantage at this time of year, so it’s important to be wary of any messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

See our previous blog for the top five signs you’ve received an email phishing scam – or read on for some of the most commonly reported examples of scams, according to HMRC.

Offering a tax refund

In one of the most common types of phishing scam, taxpayers receive a message telling them they are owed a tax refund, and need to claim it.

This can be particularly convincing if you have filed your tax return recently, and in many cases scammers will use what appears to be a genuine email address. You can see a list of examples here.

HMRC says it will never use emails, texts or social media to notify taxpayers about rebates or ask for personal information. You’ll only be told about a tax refund by post or through your employer.

Threatening legal action

In another frequently reported scam, individuals have received a phone call or voicemail that claims HMRC has filed a lawsuit against them. They are then asked to make a payment over the phone.

These often take a threatening tone, with some recorded calls telling the recipient to “get ready to face the legal consequences” if they don’t respond.

It’s important not to be intimidated, though – if you’re uncertain or uncomfortable about the call, hang up and contact HMRC directly.

Asking for payment to deliver goods

Some scam emails will ask for personal information or an upfront payment, in exchange for an item that’s supposedly being held by customs.

This might be prize money, goods or packages, certificates or bonds, or inheritance payments.

Again, don’t be pressured to take any action in response to the message. If you’re not sure whether it’s genuine, you can forward it to HMRC for verification.

Tax forms for landlords

Scammers have also been known to target landlords and letting agents who live abroad, by asking them to apply to receive rental income without UK tax being deducted.

These emails refer to a tax form called NRL1, but they are not sent by HMRC and are used to trick individuals into giving away their personal details.

What to do

If you’ve received an email or phone call similar to any of these examples, or if you’re suspicious of the message for any reason, you can report it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam and have suffered a financial loss, report it to your bank as soon as possible and contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Talk to us if you have any questions about your tax situation or correspondence from HMRC.