I’ve received a ‘nudge’ tax letter from HMRC, what should I do?

I’ve received a letter from HM Revenue & Customs regarding my “overseas assets, income or gains”. I’ve been told by a friend that this is a so-called “nudge letter” and should not be ignored. The letter comes with a certificate of tax position to complete, but I’m wary about doing this. What should I consider before responding?

Karmjit Kaur Mader, director in tax dispute resolution at BDO

Karmjit Kaur Mader, director in tax dispute resolution at accountancy and business advisory firm BDO, says this is indeed what HMRC deems a “nudge letter”. It is designed to nudge taxpayers to consider whether their tax affairs are up to date with regard to overseas assets, income or gains.

HMRC issues such letters to taxpayers having received information connecting them to a non-UK asset, for example, an overseas bank account. Receiving this letter does not automatically mean your tax affairs are incorrect, so please do not panic. At this stage, HMRC is inviting you to consider your tax position carefully.

The certificate provides three different options to confirm that there is no tax to pay: you have declared the offshore income and gains on your tax return; or you are adequately covered by personal allowances and reliefs; or that you are not liable to pay UK tax.

If your tax affairs are not up to date, the certificate allows you to confirm this and state that you will make a disclosure using HMRC’s Worldwide Disclosure Facility (WDF), an online digital facility which you can use to make a disclosure.

There is no legal obligation for you to complete the certificate. Indeed, the declaration states that any dishonesty in making a false statement on the certificate is a criminal offence and you may be subject to an investigation and prosecution. Therefore you must consider the wording and options of the certificate very carefully before you respond. You should also keep HMRC informed if you are unlikely to respond before the deadline.

If you have not paid the right amount of tax it is important to make an early and complete disclosure to HMRC. If you don’t, there may be consequences in the form of civil penalties or, in the most serious cases, criminal proceedings. It may be the case that a disclosure through the WDF is not appropriate to your circumstances, in which case the options on the certificate may not be appropriate.

The WDF does not offer a taxpayer immunity from a criminal investigation but there is another disclosure option which does and may be more appropriate. Ultimately, you should seek professional advice from someone with the expertise to ensure your tax affairs comply with HMRC rules. 

Crooks scammed me — how can I get my money back?

I was called recently by my bank’s fraud prevention team. The phone number matched the number on the back of my bank card and they had pieces of personal information that I thought could only come from the bank. They said that my account had been compromised and I needed to move funds to another account that they provided the details of. They were very convincing on the phone and I transferred £24,000. I called my bank, which has its headquarters in London, a few days later and it turns out that I was the victim of an authorised push payment scam. How can I get my money back? The bank is being really unhelpful.

Dan Dodman, a partner at law firm Goodman Derrick

Dan Dodman, a partner in the dispute resolution team at law firm Goodman Derrick, says that you are not alone in having fallen for this type of fraud. Push payment scams are on the rise and I see them occurring daily with individuals losing between a few hundred and hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In terms of what you can do to try and recover the funds, almost all the UK high street banks (except TSB, which has its own compensation scheme) entered into a voluntary code in May 2019 to prevent this fraud and return funds in certain circumstances.

A bank will decide whether you have ignored “effective warnings” when adding a new payee or whether the payment was made without “reasonable basis” for believing that the person on the other end of the phone was who they said they were.

It’s very important that you write to the bank to set out exactly why you made the transfer and the information that convinced you it was a legitimate call. Examples that I have seen include fraudsters knowing security words on accounts or having access to the last few transactions made. The more information provided, the more likely it will be that the bank will refund the money. You mention that the fraudsters knew pieces of personal information so you must relay this in detail and that the telephone number matched the one on your bank card.

Although it was hoped that the voluntary code might provide some certainty and assist customers, in practice it has been applied in a very uneven manner. Transactions with the same basic facts appear to be treated entirely differently between banks and even in the same bank, depending on the case handler involved.

My advice is to write often and to keep pushing until you have a final decision. If your bank refuses to make payment, the next step is to approach the Financial Ombudsman and to ask them to review the situation. You have six months from the bank’s final response to make this complaint but the process is electronic and fairly straightforward.

Although the Financial Ombudsman tends to reach reasonable conclusions, these are often many months in the making. It is not unusual for it to take a year to get a result. 

Finally, remember that there is help available and that you are not alone in being subject to this kind of fraud. Recovery is common if you take the right steps early.

The opinions in this column are intended for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. The Financial Times Ltd and the authors are not responsible for any direct or indirect result arising from any reliance placed on replies, including any loss, and exclude liability to the full extent.

Do you have a financial dilemma that you’d like FT Money’s team of professional experts to look into? Email your problem in confidence to [email protected].

Our next question

I’m the executor of my neighbour’s estate and we have paid his beneficiaries and filed the final tax return. However, HMRC has now come back (many months later) with a query on the accuracy of deceased’s tax return and has opened up an investigation on undeclared income. Does this mean I will be personally liable for any underpaid income tax and fines since there is nothing left to pay these?

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