Police Make Five Arrests In a Crackdown On Copycat Websites

Police have raided four addresses around the UK, making several arrests in a nationally co-ordinated probe into ‘copycat websites’ which imitate online services that are provided by the Government such as filing a Tax Return or renewing a passport. The raids were carried out as a result of an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime team into the sites, which dupe users into parting with their money for services which can be obtained for cheaper or free through official Government channels.Tax Return

A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police, where one of the arrests was within their jurisdiction said:

[quote] “Police supported trading standards carrying out a warrant. A 43 year old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation. The operation was carried out by the eCrime team with police support.” [/quote]

Police in Hampshire also assisted with the raids in which a total of five people were arrested. The National Trading Standards Board said that four search warrants were issued on properties in England, which could see the operation of 25 copycat websites derailed.

More than 5000 complaints were made to Citizens Advice last year and 700 were made to the Advertising Standards Agency. The most common complaints related to drivers licences, tax returns, EHICs and passports.

Lord Toby Harris, chair of the National Trading Standards Board said that:

[quote] “Our eCrime team is clamping down on the cyber fraudsters behind these websites and we are making it as difficult as possible for these online hoaxers to operate. We have been working with search engines such as Google and Bing to remove adverts from online search results and we continue to gather intelligence across the country to help tackle this issue. The misleading websites often use URLS that include fragments such as ‘govuk’ and ‘directgov’ or use names that make them appear as official providers of certain services. Design features are also incorporated to replicate the look of official websites.” [/quote]



Tax Return Bill With £0.00 Penalty Delivered To Watford Family

self-assessmentA Watford man was stunned when he received an unusual penalty from Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs. Nico Caputo, 39 years of age, received a letter that was hand delivered for his wife Joanna. The man who delivered the notice said that Mrs. Caputo owed HM Revenue And Customs the amount stipulated on the letter. But when he opened it, he saw that the penalty was for £0.00.

Nico Caputo has slammed Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs for wasting his time and wasting tax payers’ cash in order to deliver the useless bill by hand.

He explained what happened when he received the letter:

[quote]I opened the door. A man in a black suit handed me the letter. He said they wanted to give it to us in person so he knew we had it and could be told we faced court action. Then he left. Obviously it was a ­computer generated letter but a human has to pick it up at some point.[/quote]

The mistake happened because Joanna Caputo, 29 years of age and who now work as a teacher, registered as being self employed in her Self Assessment back in 2010. She was told the tax office when she had a change in circumstances, but Mr. Nico Caputo does not believe that the staff made the amendment on their system.

A spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs explained that this should not have occurred. They said:

[quote]In general these letters go to people who haven’t sent in their tax return as the law requires and where penalties might be due.[/quote]

Self assessment is something that forms an important part of tax returns. It  is the process of completing an annual tax return that demonstrates your income and capital gains.  Most British citizens with straight-forward taxes will just pay what is due on earnings and pensions through their tax codes. However, those who are self employed, directors of companies, make their money from abroad, etc. may need to complete a tax return.

Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs is a non-ministerial department within the United Kingdom government that oversees everything related to tax as well as the payment of some forms of benefits. It was formed through a merger between Her Majesty’s Customs And Excise and the Inland Revenue. This took place on April 18th 2005 under the direction of the former Chancellor Of The Exchequer Gordon Brown in his Budget on 17th March 2004.

US Firm Eyes UK ‘Tax Haven’

Retailer Mothercare has accused a US-based firm of launching a £266 million takeover bid for the sake of cutting their Corporation Tax bill. The baby and toddler retailer, who is struggling financially, has rejected two informal offers from Destination Maternity, it emerged recently.

Bosses at Mothercare said that Destination Maternity ‘greatly undervalued’ the company and did not reflect its recovery and growth prospects. However, insiders are claiming that part of the appecorporation taxal of the takeover was the UK’s low rate of Corporation Tax- currently 20% compared to 38 per cent in the USA. Destination Maternity confirmed that if the deal went through it would create a new holding company in the UK with shares remaining in the US.

Previously, American pharmaceutical company Pfizer planned to use the same tactic with its failed takeover of AstraZeneca. The tactic is known as tax inversion. The chief executive of Destionation Maternity called the tax rate ‘the icing on the cake’.  However, he insisted that his company’s heart was in the right place, with the aim of creating a global leader in maternity, baby and children’s products. The deal would create more than £1.45 billion worth of annual sales. Destination said that it would sell some of its products in Mothercare stores, but could not rule out job losses.

The approach from the company comes as Mothercare battles to fight back from a lack of sales because of competition from supermarkets and others. It recently recorded losses of just over £21.5 million. However, overseas Mothercare is doing much better with a joint venture in India.

Mothercare chairman Alan Parker said:

[quote]” The board has given these proposals full and thorough consideration. We do not believe they reflect the inherent value of Mothercare to our shareholders or its prospects for recovery and growth.” [/quote]

HMRC Sends Renewal Warning To 1.5 Million People

taxcreditsClose to 1.5 million people living in the United Kingdom and receive tax credits have less than one month to renew their claims. If they do not, the claimants risk having their payments ceased according to warnings by Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs.

The British tax authority is giving UK residents the opportunity to renew their tax credits online for the first time ever. It must, however, be completed ahead of the deadline on July 31st.

To do so, they are being told to visit the government’s Renew Tax Credits page on their official website. It can also be done via a free HMRC mobile app that is new and available to download from the Apple and Google app stores.

Those who do not wish to renew their tax credits by these new online methods are still able to do it via traditional methods. They can write to Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs by post or call the helpline for tax credits.

At the start of July, 135,000 people had submitted the renewals for their tax credits over the internet. Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs revealed that the satisfaction with the government’s website was 96%.

The warning reminder comes after 650,000 people failed to renew their tax credits before last year’s deadline. This is also the major reason Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs has implemented its new online system — people now have no excuse for missing it.

The director general of benefits and credits at Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs, Nick Lodge, said:

[quote]Loads of people have already renewed their tax credits claim online, and have found it quick and easy to do. We have now made it even better and are encouraging everyone to renew online if they can, at a time that suits them. The most important thing is to renew before the 31st July deadline, so as not to risk losing your money.[/quote]

Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs distributed its tax credit renewal pack to 5.8 million people at the beginning of April. It asked those who use tax credits to check how accurate the information about the claim is. It also demanded that people provide any new information about their circumstances including working hours, childcare costs and annual pay.

Most of the people who received these packs will not have to make any amendments and their claims will automatically be renewed. This occurs if there has been no change for a long period of time. 1.5 million are set to make changes though.

Overpaid Tax Credits Cause Debt Problem

taxcreditsIn the last three years, the number of people in Wales who are having debt problems from overpaid tax credits has sharply risen. This is according to new figures gathered by Citizen’s Advice.

The charity said there are more than 1300 people living in Wales who got in touch with Citizen’s Advice about tax credits between 2013 and 2014. It was a result of errors at HM Revenue And Customers due to people’s incomes rising unexpectedly. However, the government department has stated that there has been a reduction in over payments since 2012.

The BBC spoke to a nurse from Pembrokeshire, Wales who was told by HM Revenue And Customers  that she owed £10,000 dating back to 2009. Amanda Worth, who lives with her husband and teenage son, said she had no idea she was in debt with Inland Revenue and suddenly started receiving enormous bills on a daily basis.

She said:

[quote]We received 10 letters in one day which indicated we had an over payment for each year dating back five years for amounts between £2,000, £3,000 and £400 – totaling £10,000. They asked us to pay them back within a month. It was shocking, absolutely shocking. I didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden you’re in debt. I tried to contact them but it was a bank holiday. When we tried to contact them on the Tuesday, it took over an hour and a half to get the right telephone number to actually speak to somebody instead of something automated telling you what you want.[/quote]

Citizen’s Advice figures suggest that there were just over 900 Welsh people who came to them with issues about similar debts related to tax credit over payment in 2010 and 2011. This has gone up by a staggering 45% over the last 12 months to 1329 people. In England, this is an even higher 52% from 12,000 to 18,300.

Sian Williams, who is the project manager at Flintshire Citizen’s Advice, said:

[quote]People find it very stressful. They can be quite anxious; we’ve had people in tears. It’s quite scary to receive a demand from HMRC. A lot of people may just believe that they have to pay it back and it must be their fault. But actually people should get advice and sometimes it could be challenged.[/quote]

HM Revenue And Customs offered some advice to those who may find themselves in this situation.

[quote]If an over payment occurs as a result of HMRC’s error, claimants do not need to repay the overpaid money. An over payment only needs to be repaid if a claimant has failed to meet their responsibilities in telling HMRC of any changes of circumstance.[/quote]