All posts by Asif Malik

HMRC warns of landline scams

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Those with landline phones are warned to be cautious due to criminals using phones to contact victims following a rising focus on SMS and email phishing.

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Households with a landline number should be vigilant of phone calls from fraudsters pretending to be the tax authority, warns HM Revenue and Customs.

As HMRC has increasingly cracked down on email and SMS phishing, a rising number of criminals are turning to the traditional method of cold-calling publicly available phone numbers to steal money from taxpayers. Often these calls are to landline numbers.

According to Ofcom, nearly 26 million homes have a landline, many of which could be at risk from scams, especially if they are not ex-directory.

See examples of HMRC-related bogus contact.

Phone scams often target the elderly and vulnerable using HMRC’s brand as it is well known and adds credibility to a fraudster’s call.

HMRC received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in 6 months up to January 2019. This is an increase of 360% compared to the 6 months before this.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, said:

We have taken major steps to crackdown on text and email phishing scams leaving fraudsters no choice but to try and con taxpayers over the phone.

If you receive a suspicious call to your landline from someone purporting to be from HMRC which threatens legal action, to put you in jail, or payment using vouchers: hang up and report it to HMRC who can work to take them off the network.

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said:

Fraudsters will call your landline claiming to be from reputable organisations such as HMRC. Contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money.

Don’t assume anyone who calls you is who they say they are. If a person calls and asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious and seek advice.

The tax authority will only ever call you asking for payment on a debt that you are already aware of, either having received a letter about it, or after you’ve told us you owe some tax, for example through a Self Assessment return.

During the last 12 months, HMRC has worked with the phone networks and Ofcom to close nearly 450 lines being used by fraudsters using boiler room tactics to steal money.

If anyone is ever in doubt about who they are speaking to, HMRC advises you end the call and contact the department using one of the numbers or online services available from GOV.UK

Further Information

I know someone who could fall for this, what should I do?

If you know someone who has a landline, particularly those who may need protecting such as vulnerable relatives and neighbours, our advice is:

  • recognise the signs – genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details
  • stay safe – don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting
  • take action – forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC and details of suspicious calls to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599. Alternatively, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool, especially if you suffer financial loss
  • check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and recognise genuine HMRC contact
  • if you think you have received an HMRC-related phishing/bogus email or text message, you can check it against the examples shown in this guide

Lost Your UTR Number?

By | Self Assessment Tax Return | No Comments

Whether you’re someone who likes to file your annual self-assessment tax return nice and early, or you leave all the scrabbling around until the last minute, there are a number of factors which will impact your ability to file yours with HMRC.

One of these is if you end up losing your UTR number.  Here’s what this means and how to find it if it goes astray.

Your Unique Taxpayers Reference Number, or UTR, is what identifies you personally with HMRC for all things related to your personal tax obligations. It’s 10 digits in length and is quoted on any correspondence you receive from HMRC, including:

    • Your tax return
    • A Welcome to Self-Assessment letter (SA250)
    • Notice to File a Tax Return
    • Statement of Account
    • Payment Reminders

If it comes to it and you’ve lost your UTR number, or the above correspondence, your best option is to contact HMRC directly. Do this either via their helpline on 0300 200 3310, or alternatively speak to your local tax office.

What happens next?

You will need to pass a series of security checks to allow HMRC to confirm your identity. Once this has been done they will post your UTR number to you which can take up to 7 days. This is the only way HMRC will send your UTR number to you, so get a move on if it’s approaching the deadline!

Your alternative is to appoint an agent (usually an accountant) to act on your behalf when it comes to your tax affairs. The same security rules apply however, with an agent normally getting your UTR number from you at the point you sign up for their service. There is a dedicated number at HMRC they can call if you have definitely lost your UTR number.  Agents will have to have formal authorisation from you and can therefore pass the security checks.  Again, the UTR number will be confirmed in writing by post, so allow 7 days.

Want to remove the hassle of your Self-Assessment?

If you’re looking for a bit of help to get your self-assessment tax return filed this year, why not let us do it for you? Our price structure is fixed and highly competitive, and we’ll do all the work to prepare and submit a return for you using the details you supply after your approval.  To get started simply give us a call at 0121-7778000.

 

Contractor vs Employee

By | Information Centre | No Comments

Uncertain if making the move into contracting is for you?

For many people, the idea of working as a permanent employee as opposed to a contractor, would mean a lot more security by knowing that a set wage is coming in every month.  However, the times are changing, particularly with the growing economic uncertainty, so is there really such a thing as a secure permanent position anymore?

Contracting is being used less as an avenue for those people forced into redundancy and is now becoming the chosen working style for many.

Of course with most things in life there are both positives and negatives, and the same can be said of contracting. Here are a list of the advantages and downsides that come when making the move into contracting:

Advantages

  • An average contractor rate can easily be double that of a full time employee, or even more – as the client is not required to pay for your holiday, travel, sick pay, pension contributions or any employee benefits.
  • Unlike permanent workers, you are able to claim back on expenses that are made wholly and exclusively for the purposes of your business, and, as you only get taxed for your profits, this can lower your tax bill.
  • You have the freedom to work when you choose, where you choose and for however long you like.
  • The company that you work for is not your employer, but is instead your client, meaning you have far more control over your contract than what a permanent worker would have. This means that you will have a lot more flexibility and control over agreeing working conditions and negotiating payment terms.
  • Taking holiday will be a lot easier, as you will not be in the position of having to juggle your days off around other colleagues. You can also choose to have as much time off as possible, instead of the standard few weeks in a year.
  • Dealing with a variety of different clients will give you the ability to build up a wide-ranging skill set, CV and allow you to establish an extensive list of references.

A few downsides

  • Of course, becoming a contractor never means that you are guaranteed work and so this is a factor that you must take into consideration.
  • Contracting is an extremely rewarding way of working, but being your own boss does mean that you have a lot more responsibility than a permanent employee, which includes having to be in charge of your own finances. This can be worrying for some people, knowing what forms to fill out and when, but with the help of a good accountant this won’t be an issue to be concerned about.

How to contract?

There are two options recommended for contractors – to either trade through your own Limited company, or through a PAYE umbrella company.

Any accountant will tell you that contracting through your own Limited company is the most tax efficient way of working, this will typically see you take home around 75% – 80% of your contract value, compared to around just 60%-65% of your contract when working through and umbrella company.

However, there will be a number of factors that will mean one will suit you better than the other.  For example if your contract is short term and less than a certain limit, then you would probably be better off trading through an umbrella company. To see which way of contracting would suit you please get in touch with City Accountants, we can provide expert advise based on your personal circumstances.