Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Gone fishing?

My in-box has been overflowing….sadly, it’s not with heartfelt New Year wishes, but with phishing emails.

There’s been the usual collection of fake missed deliveries “in time for Xmas”; offers to help me enlarge something I don’t have; and fake remittances with malware for attachments. 

As ever, if I don’t recognise who they’re from they just get deleted – if they’re for real, someone will ring me to chase them up.

I’ve also been preparing myself for the annual round of fake HMRC repayment letters where the spammer implies that you have overpaid tax and can click on a link to get it back. 

We’re pretty much there on this year’s personal tax returns so I’m waiting for this bunch of feeble attempts to con me to start flooding in.

Believe me, I have a chuckle at a good fake, one that has a good story to it.  The Nigerian astronaut stuck on the space station was one of the best 419 scam emails I’ve ever seen. 

I suppose they appeal to my sense of humour.  They still go in the bin but they do give us a laugh at Battleaxe HQ.

What I wasn’t expecting, and don’t appreciate, is getting letters from HMRC, which while not fakes are ‘fishing’ for all sorts of detailed information that is nothing to do with the client’s actual tax affairs. 

We’ve even been asked to provide personal bank statements for the wife of a client, who isn’t a shareholder or a director of the business!

Now, if they’ve got good reason to ask that’s fine.  But HMRC doesn’t actually have the right to demand anything they think they might like to see.

The taxpayer has every right to push back and demand to know why any item is relevant.  And believe me, we have been. 

When we do nine times out of 10 HMRC backs down – the latest was an admission that they’d “made a mistake in asking” – but far too many people just provide the information without thinking.

Our policy is to ensure that clients pay the right amount of tax (not too much and not too little) but with HM Treasury short on tax take I suspect we can expect more of these seemingly innocent phishing expeditions. 

Just remember: if you take the right advice you can then push back and put it in the bin.