While welcoming the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), ACCA UK is saying that agents, the accountants who act for their self-employed clients, should be allowed to help them make the claim. The call comes after HMRC wrote to all those eligible, explaining they will need to make the claim themselves, although they could seek advice from an agent if they used one.

Claire Bennison, head of ACCA UK, says HMRC’s approach means agents are being excluded from an important process for their clients: ‘We’ve heard from our UK members that agents want to be more involved, and clients are asking why they can’t help them. Given this grant is subject to income tax and self-employed National Insurance, agents who act on behalf of their clients need to know what they receive if their claim is successful.

‘This help is important, especially when claimants have been warned about HMRC being aware of an increase in phishing and scam emails, calls and texts. Like HMRC, we’re also concerned about this high risk of fraud, as many self employed do not have direct contact with HMRC and may accept the contact as legitimate.’

ACCA UK recommends that those who receive text messages to set up a personal government gateway ID with HMRC should register through their web browser or, if already registered, only log back in through their web browser to reduce the risk of fraud.

‘If someone calls claiming to be from HMRC, and you’re not sure they are, then ask them a security question, perhaps something from your last tax return,’ Bennison said. ‘And as with any contact about your finances, never give your bank details, credit or debit card numbers if you are unsure of the source of the email, or the identity of the caller.’

HMRC is staggering the availability of the claim system and advises that it will be in contact between 13 and 18 May. If anyone believes they have been a victim of fraud then they need to alert HMRC and send suspicious emails to phishing@HMRC.gov.uk