I had an email from HMRC this morning, which you can view here in website form.
If you go to GOV.UK and search for ‘Self-Employment Income Support Scheme’ you will find the tool that checks your eligibility, and assigns you a time from which you can place your claim. I strongly advise that you do it this way, just in case someone sends you a scam email – never click on links from emails to access your bank or business accounts anywhere.
Make sure you have the necessary information before you start your eligibility check. You need your Government Gateway number, your UTR, and your NI Number to complete it.
The good news for me is that I am eligible, and I can make a claim from next week (though there is the possibility that the claim system might not be available until later in the week, but we shall see). The email also says that the calculated money will be paid within six working days.
Update: Well, it didn’t take long, did it? The system is about as simple and straightforward as it could be, yet it still seems to have thrown many into a state of utter confusion.
The original email makes it clear that you need your Gateway Access number, your UTR, and your NI Number. If you don’t have those to hand, you will not be able to complete the check. If you do your own self-assessment you will have them (frankly, even if you don’t do your own SA, you really ought to have this information on file).
When you check your eligibility, it just says whether you are, or whether you aren’t, eligible. It doesn’t tell you how much you’ll be getting or give you any money there and then. Honestly, it doesn’t. It then asks you to enter your contact details. Just your email address and phone number – no inside leg measurements, bank details, or anything – just your email address and contact phone number. This is so you can be sent the claim link on the date and time it gives you on the screen.
Claim dates and times are different for everyone. I guess they’ve done it like this to stop everyone crashing the system as they all apply at the same time first thing Monday when it starts up. In other words, the claims are staggered whether you like it or not. Moan about it all you want – you’d certainly be moaning if the system crashed due to overload – but at least they are trying to avoid problems.
Let me stress again. You are not making a claim at this moment in time. You are just checking your eligibility, and providing two pieces of contact information so they can send you the claim link at your date and time next week.
Once you have done that, the screen message clearly indicates that there’s nothing more to do at this stage. The clue is in the absence of any further questions or requests for (sigh) bank details. They will want your bank information next week.
This system makes perfect sense to me. However, some people also appear put out by the fact that they aren’t just getting a wheelbarrow full of cash dumped on their doorstep, and they’ve actually got to do something to get it. Something so horrendously illogical as… filling in a claim form!
Reading social media, etc., and it amazes me the number of instructors who are confused over what they need to do – even though they apparently do their own self assessments each year!
If you do your own SA, you will have access to the Government Gateway. When you log in, the security system sends you a text message with a short-lived access code, which you then have to type in before getting to your account. It stands to reason you should not be sending screenshots of this access code to social media or any other source, but I can see people doing precisely that. The first time you log into the Gateway, it asks you to set this up.
The access code expires after 15 minutes, after which time you’ll need to get a new one. However, you can ask the system to ‘remember for 7 days’ if you plan on logging in several times in the immediate future. This is even more reason not to go posting screenshots anywhere just because ‘you can’. It is security information, roughly equivalent to a password, and making it known to all and sundry removes one level of security from your most private financial information. If anyone gains access to that, they could pretend to be you virtually anywhere in the world.
I also see people triggering the whole issue all over again every single time they get a text message, with a deluge of inconsistent, repetitive replies every single time. HMRC will not send out any messages with links in them. You should always go to GOV.UK and access your account from there, or from within links within GOV.UK.
If you’ve gone through everything once and been given a time and date for your claim, you do not need to do it again. You do not need to do it two more times. Or three more times. Once you’ve done it the first time, nothing you can do will make next week come any quicker. Just wait.
Not every test message you receive is a scam. If you get one from HMRC and it doesn’t contain any links or mention sums of money, it is almost certainly legitimate. Log into the Gateway and you can check – if you don’t owe anything when you look at your account, then you don’t owe anything, period. So any text message saying otherwise can be ignored.
This is the same principle you should follow for any other text message telling you your ‘bill is overdue and you’ll get cut off if you don’t pay immediately’. I get them allegedly from EE and Virgin Media on a regular basis. The giveaway is usually the email address they come from, but all I do is log into my EE or Virgin accounts and check (helped by the fact that I pay by direct debit and I know I have funds to cover my payments). What I don’t do is click the link and then start posting all over social media to get a 50:50 opinion on whether it’s a scam or not. I note that social media replies are frequently 50:50 on being right if it is a scam, and 50:50 on being right if it isn’t. The net result is a complicated answer that is lucky if it’s even close to being right.
DO NOT click links in emails to access your bank, HMRC, or other accounts where your bank details are stored. If you do, contact your bank immediately and tell them what you’ve done.
Even if you realise it is a scam, don’t try and be a smart arse by clicking the link to try and outfox the scammers. You might be saying ‘yes’ to having software installed on your PC or phone. At the very least, you are saying ‘I am here’, and thus registering yourself as a target.