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Picking the wrong person
I have just received an e-mail supposedly from HMRC, using a pretty nearly correct header, and telling me to click through and claim a tax refund.

Unfortunately for them, I know damn well that this is not standard procedure, that I am not owed a tax refund and, if I was, it would be taken care of by the firm who administer HMRC pensions. Surprisingly my HMRC pension gets taxed on PAYE.

I'm lucky. I also happen to know exactly what an HMRC e-mail address looks like, and this one, ending in is not it.

Even if it looks correct, if you get a similar e-mail, check the address from which it was sent. If it is not a address then it's a phish.

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I've always assumed those e-mails were Phishy, since as far as I know HMRC does not have my e-mail address!

They do have mine, obviously.

There's such a lot of it going on now that my default position is "deeply suspicious and never going to even open any such email", especially as I keep being bombarded with emails telling me there's something wrong with my Halifax account - there certainly is, starting with the fact that I have never had a Halifax building society account in the 52 years I've been on this planet...

I got a Halifax one, but, though I have a Halifax account, they don't have my e-mail addie. Furthermore, I still don't bank online...

I have a similar problem with my Halifax account too, namely that it's non-existent! :)

My default is also "deeply suspicious", though I have a couple of times only narrowly avoided deleting something genuine because it was triggering my "this is suspicious" reflexes. But I'd rather delete something genuine than fall for a phishing scam.

I've just had another one of my favourite delete-automaticallies - one pretending to be from UPS saying I have a parcel waiting and if I just open this 'ere zip file I'll 'ave a form to collect it.


Yes, I got that one too. And ignored it.

My problem is that, having worked for HMRC (and before that for HMC&E) I might well get emails with that familiar green header.

I get more from the IRS than HMRC. Even more obviously phish-y.

And as I write this kind Mr Taxman's just emailed me again.

The IRS ones - not to mention the Amex ones - are totally ridiculous.

Anymore, I don't click on any link in my email unless I've specifically requested it (a message reply, a password change, a permission, etc). I always go directly to my bank and to Paypal to see if they've sent me a message.

I will go to internet banking only when forced... and my paypal accounts are lapsed.

Ansd the buggers never ever give any monies back.


You don't talk to them nicely enough. I used to spend a lot of my time in HMCE (as opposed to HMRC) telling people how to pay less Customs Duty and VAT.

Also, due to an oddity of legislation, I could, back in the 1980s as a lowly EO, sign off vast repayments (once, over a million squid) on something call GO12/30 deposit.

People were using repayments of tax to money launder, so now repayments go into a holding account for months before you're allowed to see it again.

Not to mention the collapse of HMRC into administrative incompetence these days. Obviously due to your departure!

Basically, there aren't enough people to do the work the legislation requires. I once had a dreadful time at a conference trying to convince people from commerce that, no, if HMCE and the IR upped productivity by collecting more tax per employee, the government wouldn't give us more money for more employees and training, but would actually cut the budgets because we were exceeding targets and could manage with fewer people.

When I worked for Customs and Excise, in a job that combined policy and enforcement, we saw our job to get people to pay the correct tax. I suspect it was the same in the Revenue (I never worked for the tax side of the revenue - just continued the statistical job I had been doing in HR for C&E.)

And they also decided the people to get rid of were the experienced inspectors so you're constantly dealing with amateurs. And call centres! Which never works well for anyone. I don't blame the revenue but they are horrible to deal with.

Last year my parents had at one and the same time a letter demanding payment of tax they'd paid, a penalty notice for that tax, a letter agreeing they should be repaid the tax, but no letter repaying. And a notice of coding for next year which didn't take into account his retirement. it tool 18 months to sort out and this isn't unusual.

They can't keep call centre staff because they are paid a pittance for really difficult work - and the call centres aren't well staffed enough to begin with. The really big mistake was the closure of local enquiry centres.

Don't get me started on this or I may break the official secrets act. I was involved in a small way in the major reports that led to what was effectively the break up of C&E and its merger of the tax side with the Revenue, as well as with other major cost cutting reviews both before and after the merger. There was nothing wrong with the idea of merging the departments - but the calculations of the savings that were supposed to emerge were IMHO... something that comes out of the rear orifice.

NOd nods.

I don't think the professions ever thought that a simple merger would make that much difference. After all the taxes are still administered separately.

Oh, there are quite a lot of tax bits that have been merged - debt management, for instance.

That's not true, especially in the last couple of years. First of all for anyone doing a tax return (which will include most higher rate taxpayers and company directors, it is very easy for your own assessment of the tax due to be a bit out compared to HMRC's, so you could get a rebate that way. For PAYE-only taxpayers, it's very possible that over the course of the year you could have been on the wrong tax code at some time which would lead to an over or underpayment quite easily.

You confuse the theoretical possibility of having paid too much tax with the practical difficulties of persuading HMRC to disgorge the same.

If the amount is small, they tend to code out for the following year. And if the amount is large, the payments tend to stick in a suspense account for six months whilst they verify your identity.

You can therefore be shown as due a repayment, which you will never see.

Yes, there is a difference, but if you submit a tax return they seem to send you rebate checks if you tick the appropriate box. That's what they usually do with me.

And that isn't what they do for a lot of our clients. THe refunds are processed but not issued

And it certainly isn't what happened for my parents.

I've had a couple of tax refunds in the last few years due to mostly working minimum wage and/or not all of the year. It's a lovely surprise because it's just a cheque through the door. I mean, why would they need to ask me anything, they work the darn thing out. Lots of Halifax crap, yes. The latest one is some student loan header. Bin, bin, bin ... :)

What to do about phishing expeditions purporting to come from HMRC - the official position:

As for the woes of HMRC - what can I say...?

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