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SEISS 4 & The latest fake HMRC email scam

Be wary of emails

With the fourth self-employed income support scheme grant (SEISS) now open for applications, there is a good chance that this phishing scam, the latest in a string of phishing emails, could soon land in your inbox.

To the untrained eye the email that lands in your inbox, can easily fool most people who are not on their guard. It is targeted at those many self-employed individuals who are desperate for an SEISS grant and who may not be as alert to the possibility of fraud as they would normally be.

What does the email look like?

For a start, the email uses a very good reproduction of the Gov.uk logo. It also uses the same typeface favoured by government websites and the format they tend to use, with many headings and short paragraphs. But don’t be fooled as this is a new phishing scam that’s masquerading as an SEISS notification to trip-up desperate traders eagerly awaiting the latest grant.

SEISS 4 Scam: What does the email say?

The email has the heading, ‘HMRC SEISS Tax Refund Notification’ and purports to alert the recipient that claims for the SEISS grant have now opened for application and directs them to sign in to ‘HMRC online services’.  This is followed by, “the date for submitting application for the Fourth SEISS grant start 22nd April 2021”, which is different from the real notification, which merely refers to ‘Late April’.

The email instructs the user to sign in and “follow step 1 of 3 to have your tax refund credit to your bank account”. The email recipient is then advised to have their bank, passport and driving licence details to hand, in order to submit the application.

The individual is then encouraged to click the ‘HMRC online services self-assessment’ hyperlink provided. The fraudulent email continues: “For security reason we will record (IP Address, Time and Date) Deliberate Wrong input or flooding will be criminally pursued”.

If you read the email carefully, you will notice a string of grammatical mistakes, but the tell-tale sign that this is a scam is the reference to the grant as a tax refund, which it most definitely is not. So, watch out for any emails from [email protected].

Check with your accountant

As an accountant, I am acutely aware of the constant threat of HMRC phishing scams and regularly warn my clients of suspicious email communications to watch out for. However, You should also be aware that HMRC is not normally in the habit of sending emails, rather it sends messages, or more commonly letters, when communicating with taxpayers.

Also, the fact that you are represented by an accountant is registered with HMRC, with the tax office copying any communication, whether it be by letter, message or email, to that accountant. Unfortunately, in recent times this has not always been done, so don’t assume that an email purporting to come from HMRC has been checked by your accountant and is therefore genuine, check with your accountant first before responding.

Latest (legitimate) SEISS 4 News

The 4th & 5th SEISS grants

The fourth grant covers the period from 1st February 2021 to 30th April 2021 at 80% of traders’ average profits. The grant will be open for taxpayers that traded in the tax years 2018/19 to 2020/21. Self-employed workers will have until the window closes on 1st June to make their claim.

The government also recently confirmed that in addition to the upcoming fourth grant, there will be a fifth SEISS grant that will be payable for the three months to 31 July 2021 (up to a maximum of £7,500, with the portal for claiming the fifth grant opening in late July 2021.

How to claim SEISS 4

The latest SEISS 4 grant brings the 2019/20 tax returns into account, both for eligibility and in the calculation of the amount of the grant. This will open the scheme to some new applicants who started up in 2019/20; but will exclude those who are no longer trading or who had little or no profit in 2019/20. Also, the grant only applies to those whose 2019/20 tax returns were submitted before 3rd March 2021.

For those individuals who don’t qualify based on 2019/20 alone, HMRC will evaluate the four tax years 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 combined to test if average profits across the four years are under £50,000 and at least half of relevant income. If trading hasn’t continued through all four tax years, only the most recent continuous two or three tax years with trading income will be used in determining both eligibility and amount.

SEISS 4 will again be 80% of three months’ average profits, but the amount of the grant will be different to SEISS 3, because 2019/20 profits will be included for the first time in working out average profits.

Tax Accountant’s Comment

There are of course lessons to be learnt from this latest attempt by fraudsters to con self-employed workers. These SE individuals are often desperate for the latest grant money, in many cases just in survive.  Do not automatically trust that any emails you’ve received have come from a genuine and legitimate source; and unless you are absolutely certain the any email purporting to come from the tax office is authentic, do not open it and immediately check with your accountant.

And finally, if you’ve received any suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC, you will be helping others by forwarding them to [email protected] or you can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.