Beware of copycat tax return websites

Copycat tax return websites were active in January, tricking some taxpayers into submitting tax returns on websites that were designed to mimic the HMRC’s. 

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Some people paid up to £500 for a service that they could have received at a fraction of the cost from a reputable tax refunds specialist, or done it themselves on the HMRC’s official website for free. Image cc:

In an age of online submissions, some websites exist purely for the purpose of tricking people into believing that they legitimately represent the HMRC. They then charge exorbitant fees to process or renew official documents, including tax returns.

Some of these unscrupulous websites pay for sponsorship on Google so that they appear at the top of an online search, often looking very official, using the colours and font of, for instance, the HMRC.

The Advertising Standards Authority has in the last 12 months received a whopping 700 complaints about transparency and pricing. And while in many instances the actual service offered is not against the law per se, the website is required to have a clear disclaimer, explaining in plain language that it’s not the official site of, for example, the HMRC.

If you were one of the unlucky people who submitted a tax return through a website like taxreturngateway, chances are you paid a large amount of cash, mistakenly believing that it was what you owed HMRC.

If it doesn't say HMRC on the box, it's not HMRC in the box.

If it doesn’t say HMRC on the box, it’s not HMRC in the box.

If you were the victim of a copycat tax return website, you can do the following to try to get your money back:

  • Write to taxreturngateway to request or demand a refund. You can write to Stephen Oliver, Director, Who4? Unit 3 North Hylton House, North Hylton Road, Sunderland, SR5 3AD
  • Make a claim through the small claims court, stating that you were misled when you first arrived at the site, as well as when you made payment. Visit the official Gov.UK website if you are in England or Wales
  • Lodge a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about taxreturngateway’s advert on Google. Although the ASA ruled in favour of the site, more complaints could keep the case active
  • Complain to Google. They won’t give your money back (they too said the website was within its legal rights), but the more people complain about the site, the more Google will have to pay attention.

If you want to apply for a tax refund, please visit 1st Contact Tax refunds.