VICTORIA BISCHOFF: HMRC must continue its fight against tax refund thieves and stamp out the practice once and for all
You, dear Money Mail readers, should give yourselves a huge pat on the back today.
In July, we asked you to help us expose fraudulent rebate companies that prey on hundreds of thousands of low-income taxpayers each year.
We’ve all seen the ads. They pop up everywhere with tantalizing claims that you could miss out on refunds worth hundreds of pounds. All you have to do is “click here” to enter your details and find out if you are eligible.
Fee trap: Adverts for scam refund companies appear online with enticing claims you could miss out on tax refunds worth hundreds of pounds
Amid the cost of living pressures facing households today, what could be more appealing?
Yet what companies often fail to highlight so glaringly is the exorbitant fees they charge for registering a claim – something you can easily do yourself for free.
At the start of the year, the tax authorities became so concerned about the number of people taken in by these third-party agents that they launched a wide consultation aimed at eliminating these “unscrupulous practices”. To facilitate his investigation, we asked readers to write and share their experiences.
We have raised concerns about these companies before, but I was completely unprepared for the deluge of emails and letters we received from people who had been caught off guard.
Our reporter, Tilly Armstrong, spent weeks going through all the responses. She spoke to dozens of readers and tracked down vital documents to help prove you were misled. We found that the same complaints – and companies – kept coming up.
Most worrying was the large number of people who said they were unaware that they had even agreed to a contract that allowed companies to seek reimbursement on their behalf and pocket half the money.
Tilly’s hard work has resulted in dozens of refunds for readers and forced some companies to drop threats of legal action. We then sent HMRC two files of damning evidence to support their investigation.
And, as we reveal on page 39, it has produced incredible results. The tax authorities have now promised to refund £6million to around 60,000 people who used Tax Credits Ltd, one of the companies we highlighted in our coverage of the scandal.
It’s a resounding victory and HMRC itself credits the Daily Mail with bringing these cases to light.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the support of our loyal readers, who always go the extra mile to participate in our campaigns.
But this is only a battle, there is still a long way to go before we can say that we have won the war against these unscrupulous companies.
HMRC must now weed out all rogue businesses – and if they can’t, they must ban the lot.
Silver lining of savers
Naturally, there’s been a lot of noise about how badly homeowners will be hit by rising interest rates.
And as a borrower myself, I’m more than a little concerned about what my bills will look like when my fixed agreement expires.
But for the millions of savers who are fed up with paltry returns, there’s a silver lining.
As we detail, the savings market has not been so dynamic for more than a decade. Yet there is still an appalling amount of money languishing in accounts that earn almost zero.
Savers must stop letting the big banks get away with paying a pittance and must vote with their feet.
To help you out, we’ve revamped our Savings Star Buys chart to include a wider range of offers.
Just be sure to act fast – the best rates can be gone in days.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist…usually. But I noticed that when I buy more premium bonds, the first draw they entered seems to offer a win.
I can’t help but wonder if maybe the new bond numbers have a better chance of winning.
Of course, I have absolutely no evidence to back this up.
And NS&I will even hate me for mentioning the idea – he’s adamant that all premium bond numbers are created equal. So it must be pure coincidence.
Still, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Write to me at the email address below, or Money Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.