HM Revenue & Custom (HMRC) has issued a warning about cold calls from bogus tax repayment agents, which could leave new homeowners facing huge tax bills.
They are being warned to be on their guard against stamp duty tax scams, including those that claim a home could be designated as two properties, therefore they had overpaid tax.
The conmen are advising new homeowners to make Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) refund claims, saying the homeowner had unknowingly overpaid, and the warning comes after a recent spate of Stamp Duty refund claims to HMRC failed to meet very specific criteria.
How do the scammers operate?
The scam works by rogue agents cold calling new property owners after finding them through Land Registry records and property search websites, promising money back on overpaid stamp duty on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.
When the tax authority queried claims it was sometimes after the trickster had creamed off their fee and left the homeowner to pick up the difference and face potential penalties.
HMRC says there are a number of tax scams, including
- Bogus calls: The fraudster relies on surprise as they come out of the blue and can leave you confused. Don’t give any information if you are unsure and hang up immediately
- Phishing scams: Emails can look genuine and look like they’ve been sent from official Government email addresses. Scammers sometimes even sign them with the signature of a genuine HMRC employee for added authenticity
- Fake text messages: The sender mocks up the address to look like its from HMRC and may include a link to take you to a realistic-looking but fake website asking for bank details.
HMRC said the recent analysis showed that up to a third of claims for ‘multiple dwelling relief’ refunds were incorrect.
Measure new homeowners should take if they have a suspicious approach about stamp duty refunds:
- Check with the original conveyancer
- Take independent professional advice and check HMRC’s guidance by searching ‘Stamp Duty Land Tax’ on GOV.UK
- If you’re not convinced about the identity of the caller, hang up. Premium rate numbers are also a favoured trick for squeezing every penny they can out of you.
In a recent example, HMRC said a letter from a rogue agent suggested a homeowner may have overpaid £60,000 worth of Stamp Duty. The rogue agent claimed the home could be designated as two properties, which it could not.
Another claimed that a bedroom could be a separate dwelling and in line for claiming ‘multiple dwellings relief’ because it had an en-suite and a built-in wardrobe which could be a kitchen if you added a microwave and a kettle.
For help and advice on SDLT and other tax matters, contact our expert team today.