One of the main criticisms of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was that it excluded the newly self-employed. When it was introduced in 2020, claimants had to have submitted a tax return for the financial year 2018/19. In effect, this meant you had to have traded during that period in order to qualify for a grant. However, in his recent Budget, the Chancellor announced that self-employed people who had submitted their 2019/20 tax return midnight on 2nd March could apply for the fourth and fifth grants. So far, so good: but what he didn’t mention were the stringent, new SEISS pre-verification checks he has put in place.

Why SEISS pre-verification checks are needed

SEISS pre-verification checks are needed because of the risk of fraud. It was always highly likely that the Chancellor would open up the scheme to people who became self-employed during the 2019/20 financial year. Because of this, it’s quite possible that fraudsters have submitted false tax returns designed to make them eligible for a maximum £7,500 payment from the fourth and fifth rounds of SEISS.

To avoid such fraud, HMRC has decided that it needs to see evidence of claimants’ income and identity before they make a new claim. Hence the new SEISS pre-verification checks, which are only being made for first-time claimants who started trading in 2019/20.

How the SEISS pre-verification checks work

HMRC has started sending out letters to some 100,000 people who filed their first, recent self-employed tax return before the 2nd March deadline. This letter informs you that HMRC will call you within the next 14 days.

The taxman will make three attempts to call you. If you don’t answer or HMRC can’t get through, you fail the pre-verification check and won’t be able to claim SEISS. So, it’s important to check you have provided the correct telephone number on your tax return. You can correct it by calling 0800 024 1222.

When you receive the call from HMRC, you need to confirm your email address. When you have done this, the taxman will email you a link to a Dropbox folder. If you don’t receive it, check your spam folder in case it has got trapped there.

What information do you need to supply?

Firstly, you need to provide a digital copy (such as a scan or photo) of valid ID. Normally you would send a copy of your passport or driving licence. You also need to send copies of three months’ worth of UK business bank statements from 2019/20. These are to prove you have been trading during that financial year. If you don’t have these statements for any reason, you need to speak to HMRC as soon as possible.

When you get the Dropbox link, it’s crucial that you act fast and upload your documents – the link expires after two days. If this happens, you fail the pre-verification process.

When can I claim the next SEISS grant?

Applications for the next SEISS grant open in late April. To claim, you must have completed the pre-verification process. So, if you think there’s a chance you will need to claim SEISS, it’s vital that you take HMRC’s call and upload your documents.

One major worry about the SEISS pre-verification process is that it could be exploited by scammers. If you have to ring HMRC, only use the official telephone numbers listed on its website. If a caller purporting to be from HMRC asks you to call a particular number, be suspicious and check it online – or you could be duped into calling a premium rate forwarding service.

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About Kirsty Demeza

With a portfolio that ranges from startups to companies with a £10 million turnover, Kirsty’s talent for working closely with her clients ensures her services remain in strong demand.

“The most rewarding part of my role is seeing clients succeed,” she says. “When you help a new business and watch it expand into new premises and secure big contracts, it’s a great feeling.” Kirsty never finds two days are the same.

As well as providing accounting services that range from self-assessment tax planning and VAT to audit and accounts, she’s part of THP’s sales team and closely involved in helping our trainees to develop their skills.

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