With tax return season in full swing, taxpayers are being urged to not be conned by websites that charge hundreds of pounds for filing their tax return – when going through the official HMRC site will cost them nothing.
Millions of people will file their self-assessment tax return online before the deadline of 31 January, but those who aren't familiar with the system might find themselves inadvertently paying for a service that they simply don't need. Searching for HMRC may not be enough to find the official site either, as dodgy site owners will often spend huge amounts to get to the top spot of Google and lure in the unwary.
In many cases these "copycat" websites look almost identical to the real thing, with duped taxpayers only being aware of their error when they're asked to pay – or in some cases have already paid – for a usually free filing service. But, even more off-putting is that, unless such sites fail to make it clear that they're not affiliated with HMRC or any Government body, they're not doing anything illegal.
There's nothing to stop websites from charging hefty fees for services that are usually free, as long as they follow the rules – they need to make it clear that they're not the official site, and that the service can be found for free elsewhere. As long as they do that they're not breaking the law, even if they look remarkably like the actual site.
The key, then, is for taxpayers to do their homework. They need to make sure they only ever submit their return through the official HMRC website – doing so is actually incredibly simple, and for most people it won't require the help of tax agents or accountants – and remember that if any site asks for a fee for the simple privilege of filing your return, you're in the wrong place.
Download Moneyfacts Tax Table 2013/14
Submit your tax return on the HMRC Website
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