Don’t caught by fake HMRC “phishing” attacks

“Phishing” is the practice of sending out emails, texts and even social media direct messages that pretend to be from a reputable source and try and get you to provide personal details that could be used to defraud you.

HMRC has become the unwitting dupe for many phishing expeditions because we tend to take extra notice of any form of communications from the taxman.  Although many of the fake messages will be easy to spot, the fraudsters can be very sophisticated. We all need to be vigilant and look at for clues that something isn’t right.

So what rules do we need  to follow to reduce the chance that we get had?

HMRC states that it “will never use texts or emails to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ask for personal or payment information.”  So if you get such a message it is a fake. HMRC has published a listed of email addresses that look realistic but aren’t genuine. Always ignore the following addresses:

  • HM-Revenue-&

In addition it easy to fool email programmes and web browses into displaying a genuine email address in the From: field or as a link.  Try rolling the mouse cursor over the email address and see what is displayed in the bottom left corner of your screen.

Check links in the body of the message, as described above, and don’t click on any link that clearly takes you to another site or seems suspicious. The linked pages may look like HMRC pages and encourage to enter information such as bank account details.  Just as importantly don’t try and open attachments as this may download viruses or malware onto your PC or phone.

The potential for tax refunds is the biggest lure that fraudsters have over us at the moment. Not only emails, but text messages and telephone calls are using tax refunds as an excuse to try and get you to provide potentially valuable details. Remember that personal information such as date of birth, address, national insurance number etc. help con men to build up a profile of you. That profile could help them to get access to bank accounts or even steal your identity completely.  HMRC never discusses tax refunds using email, text or calls.

There is more information about potential scams on the website and contact details for you to report any attempted fraud.

If you have received any communication from HMRC that you aren’t sure about please feel to contact Lewis Smith & Co. for advice.  We’ll be able to tell you immediately whether it is fine or fake.

Call us today on 01384 235549 or email


Lewis Smith & Co.  – Accountants for Kingswinford businesses.

The “Snooper Computer” has arrived

It is going to be much harder to keep secrets from the tax man in future with the recent launch of HMRC’s Connect computer system.

HMRCs latest computer system will ineae the number of tax investigations

The system has automatic access to numerous government and private sector information sources. The list of places it has access too is frighteningly large. It includes;

  • UK and overseas banks
  • Credit card companies
  • Credit reference agancies
  • Land Registry
  • DVLA
  • Online market places such as AirBnB and eBay
  • A variety of social media accounts

The objective for the HMRC is check any discrepancies between the system’s profile of a taxpayer’s income and what is declared in their annual return.  Connect is particularly powerful because it can cross check the financial profile with a lifestyle profile drawn from, for instance car ownership, property ownership and what people have posted on Facebook or Instagram.  Furthermore HMRC can request, using the so-called “Snoopers Charter” legislation, further information about web-browsing history and even email records.

The ability of the system to identify mismatches in returns has already resulted in many thousands of people receiving letters asking them to check their returns.  Some commentators have suggested that the number of tax investigations will further increase too.  The system makes it easier for HMRC to conduct investigations because it has access to so much data and analytical capability, and it can identify potential issues at a much lower financial threshold.

Lewis Smith & Co. offers a tax fee protection scheme to help mitigate the costs and worry of dealing with an investigation. Even if you don’t feel you need the reassurance of that cover we have years of experience of dealing with HMRC. We are here to represent you and provide expert support if required.

Talk to us today if you have any concerns about your tax position. Call 01384 235549 or email today.


Lewis Smith & Co. – Accountants for Stourbridge businesses.


Card Fee Abolition. Good and Bad News

You probably already know that as from January 13th organisations are no longer allowed to impose surcharges on consumers for purchases made by debit and credit cards.

HMRC stops credit card payment for tax bills

From a consumer perspective it takes away some of those nasty shocks we used to get at the payment stage of a transaction.  For instance the budget airlines be no longer be able to add a 3% fee on to the price of a flight for the privilege of using plastic.

Of course businesses still have to pay the card processing fees, and that’s leading to quite a range of reactions.

Just Eat responded by adding a 50p service charge to all orders, however they are paid for. They are justifying the decision on the grounds of fairness because they say there are costs associated with both cards and cash.

Smaller businesses, in particular, are facing some difficult choices. Should we stop taking plastic altogether (can we)? Do we impose a minimum charge? Or can we too impose a separate a service charge?

Making the right choice is a problem when there is intense competition in every sector and as consumers switch to cashless payment.

For our clients one of the outcomes of this change is particularly important.

HMRC has announced that it will no longer accept credit card payment for settlement of tax bills.  Bearing in mind nearly half a million did just that in 2016-17, then it could be a big issue as income tax and VAT bills come due.

If you are affected by HMRC’s decision then talk to Lewis Smith & Co. today.  We can talk through HMRC’s payment terms and see if their are any alternative approaches

Call us on 01384 235549 or email to book a free, confidential appointment.


Lewis Smith & Co – Accountants for Netherton businesses.


Budget Overview 2017

To mark Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s second budget we have created a downloadable document with a complete overview of his announcements.

budget 2017 overview

With the background of a potential economic downturn and continuing political uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations , the Chancellor did not have lots of room for manoeuvre.  However there were one or two pleasant surprises to brighten up the gloom.

Some the key points that you will find are elaborated upon in our overview are:

  • Stamp Duty Relief for first-time buyers
  • Changes to personal allowances
  • No changes for NIC and tax rates
  • Increase in EIS tax relief for tech firms

Take a look at the overview and, of course, get in contact with us to discuss any issues raised.

Call 01384 235549 or email to book a free, confidential appointment today.


Lewis Smith & Co. – Accountants for Kingswinford businesses

Is it the end of the tax return?

HMRC’s “Making Tax Digital” programme (cf our news item from September 2016 “HMRC wants you to be software savvy“.) has started to make real progress with the recent launch of Personal Tax Accounts.

Is your business ready for Making Tax Digital. Will your software cope?

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is intended to create a “real time” tax system where both businesses and individuals interact digitally with HMRC and have a much clearer view of their tax liabilities.

In order for it to work, however, business will be expected to provide more frequent updates to the taxman. Importantly this additional accounting information must be provided using “digital record keeping software” – bookkeeping / accounting packages or online services.

Making Tax Digital - Dudley and StourbridgePersonal Tax Account
Personal Tax Accounts are now available online to provide individuals with a consolidated view of tax, national insurance and pension information.  They will be the first port of call when people come to file their self-assessment tax returns but you can you can sign-up now to check tax payments, NI contribution history and even what pension you will be entitled to.

Register via the government gateway to take a look.  You will need your national insurance number and other forms of identification during the registration process.  There’s an overview video on YouTube if you want to see what the process entails.

MTD for Businesses
The introduction of MTD for businesses has been put back a year to April 2019. Initially it will apply only to businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (£85,000 as of 1 April 2017).

From April 2019 businesses will submit quarterly summary data (total income and total expenditure) to HMRC, followed by a year end submission. The year end submission is essentially an annual return, which will be used to reconcile the quarterly returns and provide a taxable profit calculation..

The government has said that the scheme will not be extended to businesses (inc. sole traders and partnerships) with turnover/income below the VAT threshold but above £10,000, until April 2020 at the earliest.

Digital Record Keeping Software
Although spreadsheets haven’t been been declared redundant quite yet, it is time for many businesses to consider switching to a computerised bookkeeeping / accounting system.  Even if your business is below the threshold for the initial switch to MTD, you may want to make the change early.  It may take some time to iron out any issues and get comfortable with the process of using a computerised system.

Lewis Smith & Co. can provide support and expertise on several effective systems.

  • Kashflow: Web-based accounting tool that offers key features such as banking and quotes for start-ups, sole traders and very small businesses. Available for as little as £7 +VAT per month.
  • Xero: Great for SMEs who require more advanced features such as invoicing, payroll and purchase order creation.  Lewis Smith & Co. were the first qualified Xero partner in the Black Country.
  • Sage: The UK’s number one bookkeeping and accounts package that can run an entire business.  As members of the Sage Accountants Club we can supply the software and provide both training and support.

Help and Advice
If you have any concerns about the impact of Making Tax Digital on your business then why not talk to us today?

Lewis Smith & Co. can help you devise an appropriate plan to switch to quarterly reporting and implement the right bookkeeping / accounting package for your needs.

Call us on 01384 235549 or email to book a free, confidential appointment.


Lewis Smith & Co – Accountants for Wombourne businesses.

Dividend Income Over £5,000 – Use Your Personal Allowance

Depending on your circumstances there may a way to utilise your personal allowance to reduce your overall tax burden.

Instead of automatically allocating all of your personal allowance (£11,000 in the 2016/17 tax year) against your salary, you can use it (or some it) to offset dividend income instead.

In the current tax year the first £5,000 of dividend income is taxed at 0% with additional income being taxed at 32.5%.  Allocating personal allowance to dividend income would increase income tax exposure at 20% (up to £39,000) but reduce the amount of additional dividend income being taxed at 32.5%.

HMRC software appears to default to using personal allowance only against salary. Publicly available tax calculation software has to mirror HMRC calculations so neither you nor your accountant may be getting the optimal tax savings.

If you want an expert opinion on tax liability this year, why not talk to Lewis Smith & Co.? We offer the full range of tax planning and compliance services for both personal and corporate customers.

Call 01384 235549 or email to arrange a confidential discussion today.


Lewis Smith & Co – Accountants for businesses in Wednesfield

Summer Ball Update

Lewis Smith & Co. announce that the Friends of Alfie Summer Ball 2017 raised a whopping total of £14,000.

Our team had a great time: we bagged some excellent auction items, tripped the light fantastic until the early hours and managed to avoid A&E.

It is our pleasure to support such a worthy cause.

Feel free to make donations to the Friends of Alfie Johnson or set-up your own fundraiser.  They are also always on the look out for people who need assistance – if you know of any disabled children, their parents or carers who need help then please tell them about the charity. Visit for all f the details.

Alfie Johnson Summer Ball 2017

The Lewis Smith & Co. team will be out in force on Saturday July 1st at the 9th annual The Friends of Alfie Johnson Summer Ball.

Friends f Alfie Johnson Summer Ball 2017

The Friends of Alfie Johnson charity was founded raise money in the name of Alfie Johnson, who suffered sustained brain damage through oxygen starvation at birth.  Now Alfie’s needs are being met the charity seeks to help disabled children in the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton.

Lewis Smith & Co. has been an active supporter of the charity for some years, providing sponsorship and hands-on help when needed.  The Summer Ball provides an opportunity for us to help out and have fun at the same time.

Let’s hope they make stacks of money this year.


Lewis Smith & Co. – Accountants for charities and not-for-profit organisations