HMRC’s new refund verification system looks disconcertingly like a scam. We have had several clients recently receive SURF1 and SURF2 letters from HMRC in response to 2019/20 tax returns that requested a refund.
The SURF1 is being sent mainly to people who are newly registered in self assessment and it is a fraud prevention tactic. The taxpayer must call HMRC within 30 days of receiving the letter or the ‘Self Assessment Record’, along with the UTR, otherwise the account will be shut down and the repayment cancelled. The practical issue with this is that HMRC are answering the phones only about 50% of the time and when they are answered the wait is on average 45 minutes to an hour. As a result we have had issues with clients being unable to get through to HMRC before the 30 day deadline has elapsed. Once you have called HMRC to verify receipt of SURF1 they will issue you with a SURF2.
The SURF2 is more interesting still. It requests the taxpayer to send bank details, copy of passport or drivers licence and proof of address along with a ‘Repayment Questionnaire’ by post to an address that is listed nowhere on the HMRC website. Again, this information must be sent within 30 days of receiving the letter. Any right minded individual would question the veracity of a letter that asks for details like these, and any prudent person would question the intelligence of sending these details by unsecured post. The Chartered Institute of Taxation has raised this issue with HMRC and they are looking into the feasibility of using alternative, more secure methods of sending documents.
Despite the fact that such letters are now being routinely issued, we would recommend that clients check with us if they have any concern over what they have received. We are able to verify the address listed on these letters where necessary. It is also possible to send documents by way of courier to the HMRC address:
HM Revenue and Customs
Benton Park View
Newcastle Upon Tyne
It must be noted that HMRC are not sending copies of either SURF1 or SURF2 to agents, therefore we are unable to support you unless and until you contact us. Please get in touch with us if we can be of any assistance in dealing with these forms.
Further Reading – The Chartered Institute of Taxation