Helping you prosper

Don't get caught out by SEISS scammers

SEISS came to the fore last week. For the uninitiated, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which is the government’s support for the self-employed during the pandemic.

At the start of the week, we were kicking around on Teams the pronunciation of the initials – was it ‘cease’ or ‘says’? This was soon followed by more sensible discussions about obligations to clients as regards their 2021 self-assessment tax returns in the light of HMRC’s recent pronouncements on over-claimed SEISS payments.

In essence, if you have received more in SEISS grant than you are entitled to, you need to account for this to HMRC, potentially through your 2021 self-assessment tax return.

The first three rounds of SEISS payments could fall into the 2020-21 tax year, so it was those rounds on which our discussions focussed. The rules for qualification and calculation, together with the data on which the calculations can be based, are fairly clearly laid out with, certainly for the first two rounds, very little subjectivity.

A set of calculations and the information to feed into those calculations is meat and drink to the spreadsheet aficionados in any accountant’s office and ours is no exception. Soon we had the means to check our clients’ grants received and help them to ensure their compliance.

One of the features of the pandemic in the tax world has been the support that government has provided for all manner of individuals and businesses and the ingenuity that scammers have used to get more than their fair share of that support. Last week’s third incidence of SEISS was in this context. We became aware that taxpayers were being sent an e-mail purporting to notify them of the fourth SEISS grant and encouraging claims to be made.

The e-mail was headed ‘HMRC SEISS Tax Refund Notification’. It should be noted that SEISS is not a tax refund, but a taxable grant. Clearly the authors of the e-mail were using an adaptation of their ‘apply for a tax refund’ template that has been used in many previous phishing attempts. HMRC does not send e-mails to taxpayers notifying of tax refunds and it was relatively easy to inform any clients that contacted us regarding any such e-mail received that it was a scam.

However, unusually for HMRC, some taxpayers were contacted by e-mail and letter in connection with the fourth and fifth SEISS grants, requiring a response by 22 March 2021 to confirm that those taxpayers were still trading and therefore eligible for the further SEISS grants. This may have alerted the scammers to a new twist on the well-worn ‘give us your details, so you can be paid what you are due’ extraction of personal information and, ultimately, money from innocent taxpayers.

The latest e-mails came from support@access.service.gov.uk, so be wary of this and similar e-mail addresses. If you receive an e-mail seemingly from HMRC that indicates that you have money due to you and requests personal information from you, seek advice immediately, either from a professional advisor or from HMRC. 

The next step

If you have any concerns about whether you have been overpaid previous SEISS grants or your eligibility to receive future grants, contact John Sheehan on j.sheehan@uhy-uk.com.

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