Tax may not be the first thing on your mind as you enjoy the summer sun, but scammers don’t take a holiday.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has revealed it has removed more than 20,000 malicious websites during the past year, but warns people to stay alert to the threat from online fraudsters.

This may concern you if you have payments on account to settle with HMRC during July for your self-assessment tax return or you may be preparing your company accounts or even getting ready to file your own return for the 2017/2018 tax year extra early.

The taxman requested a record 20,750 malicious sites to be taken down in the past 12 months, an increase of 29% on the previous year.

Despite a record number of malicious sites being removed, HMRC is warning the public to stay alert as millions of taxpayers remain at risk of losing substantial amounts of money to online crooks.

Genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact people out of the blue to ask for their PIN, password or bank details. So people should never give out private information, download attachments, or click on links in emails and messages they weren’t expecting.

The most common type of scam is the ‘tax refund’ email and SMS. HMRC does not offer tax refunds by text message or by email.

HMRC has also been trialling new technology which identifies phishing texts with ‘tags’ that suggest they are from HMRC, and stops them from being delivered. Since the pilot began in April 2017, there has been a 90% reduction in people reporting spoof HMRC-related texts.

It’s not just texts and emails that can be an issue. The taxman says it has saved the public more than £2.4million by tackling fraudsters that trick the public into using premium rate phone numbers for services that HMRC provide for free. Scammers create websites that look similar to HMRC’s official site and then direct the public to call numbers with extortionate costs.

HMRC has successfully challenged the ownership of these websites, masquerading as official websites, and taken them out of the hands of cheats.

People should forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRCto phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

They can also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls, or use its online fraud reporting tool.

HM Revenue and Customs practice and the law relating to taxation are complex and subject to individual circumstances and changes which cannot be foreseen

For tax advice please refer to an accountant or tax specialist.