We've had a few clients querying the new HMRC verification system, which does look worryingly like a scam. These are the SURF1 and SURF2 letters in response to reclaiming refunds of tax.
If you are new to Self Assessment you are more likely to have been sent the SURF1. The taxpayer is asked to contact HMRC within 30 days of receiving the letter, along with the UTR or the refund will be cancelled. Once you have contacted HMRC to verify receipt of the SURF1 they will issue you with a SURF2.
Now the problem is that we, as your acting agent, aren't made aware of these letters and so rely on you to inform us of receipt of the letters. It is made even more difficult with the fact that most of you are away for more than 30 days at a time. What is also frustrating is that the tax office rarely answers the phones and so contact isn't easy. Therefore it's highly likely that the 30 day deadline will be missed.
The SURF2 requests the taxpayer to send bank details, copy of passport or drivers licence and proof of address along with a ‘Repayment Questionnaire' by post to an address that is listed nowhere on the HMRC website. Quite rightly clients are wondering at the authenticity of these letters, due to the nature of the sensitive information that is being requested.
The Chartered Institute of Taxation has raised this issue with HMRC and they are looking into the possibility of using alternative, more secure methods of sending documents.
As a result of this it's important that you contact your tax adviser if you have any concerns over the letter. We are able to verify the letter ensuring it isn't fraudulent.
It is also possible to send documents by way of courier to the HMRC address:
HM Revenue and Customs
Benton Park View
Newcastle Upon Tyne
If you receive these forms please inform your tax adviser so that we can assist in any way we can. As previously mentioned we are not aware of when these letters are issued. Furthermore it would be of great help if your mail could be attended to, especially from HMRC, whilst you're away at sea.