HMRC and ICAEW periodically remind taxpayers and members about the need to be vigilant when they are contacted by someone purporting to be from HMRC. The following real life example provided by a member highlights how aggressive the approaches can be:
‘This afternoon I had a call from a client who runs a limited company; he is very diligent and keeps his PAYE and CIS payments up to date.
The client (not based in Northamptonshire) had received a call from ‘a bailiff of Northampton crown court’ saying he had a court warrant to collect £853.27 and that he was on his way to the client’s address (the registered office) to seize goods unless the debt was paid immediately. The ‘bailiff’ added that the amount would go up by £400 if not paid within 30 minutes.
I phoned the ‘bailiff’ who was extremely aggressive and would not say what tax was owed. I then checked online and with HMRC and confirmed that my client did not owe anything. The ‘bailiff’ did not arrive at my client’s address.
HMRC has taken all the details including the mobile phone number and the bank details left by the ‘bailiff’ and is investigating. My client has reported it to the police.
This seems to be a very aggressive scam and I suspect some taxpayers would pay out of panic.’
HMRC publishes fairly extensive guidance on phishing and scams including examples of phishing emails and bogus contact and how to recognise genuine HMRC contact.
A client of mine had a similar call as an individual taxpayer. The caller said they were an enforcement officer and demanded several hundred pounds of unpaid tax or bailiffs would be sent round. He had my client's national insurance number as proof that he was a genuine caller. Fortunately my client had the presence of mind to say that she needed to speak to her tax adviser at which point he hung up but when she called me she was on the verge of tears and obviously very shaken by the aggressive nature of the call.