News, Culture & Society

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: HMRC must root out the tax rebate rogues

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: HMRC must keep up its fight against the tax rebate rogues and stamp this out once and for all

You, dear Money Mail readers, should today award yourselves a huge pat on the back.

In July, we asked you to help us expose the rip-off rebate firms that prey on hundreds of thousands of unassuming taxpayers every year.

We’ve all seen the adverts. They pop up everywhere with tempting claims that you could be missing out on refunds worth hundreds of pounds. All you need to do is ‘click here’ to enter your details and find out if you are eligible.

Fees trap: Adverts for rip-off rebate firms pop up online with tempting claims you could be missing out on tax refunds worth hundreds of pounds

Amid the cost of living pressures faced by households today, what could be more appealing?

Yet what firms often fail to highlight quite so prominently are the eye-watering fees they charge for logging a claim — something you can easily do yourself for free.

Earlier this year, the taxman became so troubled by the number of people being taken in by these third-party agents that it launched a major consultation aimed at eliminating such ‘unscrupulous practices’. To aid its investigation, we asked readers to write in and share their experiences.

We have raised concerns about these firms previously, but I was quite unprepared for the deluge of emails and letters we received from people who had been caught out.

Our reporter, Tilly Armstrong, spent weeks trawling through all the responses. She spoke to dozens of readers and tracked down vital documents to help prove that you had been misled. We found that the same complaints — and companies — cropped up time and again.

Most worrying of all was the sheer number of people who said they had no idea they’d even agreed to a contract that gave firms permission to claim a refund on their behalf and pocket half the cash. 

Tilly’s hard work resulted in scores of refunds for readers and forced some firms to drop threats of court action. We then sent HMRC two dossiers of damning evidence to feed into its investigation.

And, as we reveal on Page 39, this has yielded incredible results. The taxman has now promised to refund £6 million to around 60,000 people who used Tax Credits Ltd, one of the firms we highlighted in our coverage of the scandal.

It is a stunning victory and HMRC itself credits the Daily Mail for highlighting these cases.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the support of our loyal readers, who always go the extra mile to engage with our campaigns.

But this is just one battle — there is still a long way to go before we can say we have won the war against these unscrupulous firms.

HMRC now needs to root out all rogue companies — and if it can’t, it must ban the lot.

Savers’ silver lining

Understandably, there has been much noise made about how hard homeowners will be hit by rising interest rates.

And as a borrower myself, I’m more than a little concerned about what my bills are likely to look like when my fixed-deal expires.

But for the millions of savers out there who are fed up with paltry returns, there is a silver lining.

As we detail, the savings market has not been this vibrant in more than a decade. Yet there is still a horrifying amount of cash languishing in accounts paying close to zero.

Savers have to stop allowing the big banks to get away with paying a pittance and must vote with their feet.

To help, we’ve given our Savings Star Buys table a makeover to include a larger range of deals.

Just be sure to act fast — the best rates can disappear within days.

Winning tricks

I am not a conspiracy theorist… usually. But I’ve noticed that when I purchase more Premium Bonds, the first draw they are entered into seems to deliver a victory.

I can’t help but wonder if newer bond numbers perhaps have a greater chance of winning.

Of course, I have absolutely no evidence to back this up.

And NS&I will hate me for even mentioning the idea — it is adamant that all Premium Bond numbers are created equal. So this must be purely coincidental.

All the same, I would love to hear your thoughts. Write to me at the email address below, or Money Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.