How to spot a tax scam

20th December 2019

The number of scams involving bogus HMRC communications is increasing as the self-assessment payment deadline approaches. What are the warning signs you should be looking for?

According to HMRC statistics, in 2018/19 it received around 900,000 reports about possible scams involving tax. This is a staggering figure given that most people don’t bother to tell HMRC about them.  

Bogus phone calls

While HMRC does contact people by phone about their tax, usually when there’s overdue tax to pay, you’ll be aware that you owe money and, at least broadly, how much. You will have received a string of demands and statements from HMRC before it resorts to phone calls. So a call out of the blue suggesting you owe money is almost bound to be fake.

Tip: Don’t engage in any discussion or provide any information. Hang up immediately and do not return the call on any number you’re given as this can trigger charges. If you’re concerned that you owe tax, use the contact details provided on GOV.UK web pages to get in touch with HMRC.


HMRC will never ask you for personal or financial information by text. Don’t respond to a text message or open any links it contains.


E-mails and letters can, but often don't, appear convincing and include a genuine looking HMRC logo. They will typically include links to tax refund/payment claim web pages.

Tip: If in any doubt check HMRC’s website which contains examples of scams currently being circulated. If you decide the document is suspicious, it’s up to you whether you report the details to HMRC. There’s no obligation to do so but it might help others.

Unless you know that you owe money to HMRC, it's very unlikely that it will be calling you about a debt. Hang up immediately and do not return the call using any number given. For suspicious documents, compare them to the examples of scams on HMRC's website.