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Individuals who started their business in 2019/20 need to provide additional evidence to HMRC in order to claim the self-employed income support (SEISS) grant

HMRC is writing to up to 100,000 self-employed traders asking them to confirm their identity and prove they have been trading before they can claim the fourth SEISS grant. If the trader does not respond adequately to HMRC they won’t get the grant.

Only taxpayers who started trading as a self-employed business after 5 April 2019 will receive the SEISS verification letter from HMRC and we understand that only part of that group will be contacted.

Those new traders can claim support under the SEISS for the first time if they submitted their 2019/20 tax return by midnight on 2 March 2021.

Seven steps to claim

To complete the pre-verification check and to access the next two SEISS grants the taxpayer will have to complete all of these steps:

Step 1: Open the letter

Receive and read the HMRC letter which should arrive between 10 March and mid-April. The list of genuine HMRC contacts has recently been updated to include a reference to the SEISS letter to first-time tax return filers, so this might provide some comfort to taxpayers that the HMRC letter should not be ignored.

Step 2: Answer call from HMRC

Up to two weeks after the letter is sent an HMRC officer will call the contact number given on the taxpayer’s 2019/20 tax return. If the agent’s number was shown as the contact point HMRC will ask the agent to pass on their client’s telephone number.

The taxpayer needs to answer HMRC’s call although it will be shown as coming from an “unknown number”.

HMRC will make only three attempts to call between 8 am and 5.30 pm. If none of those three attempts are successful the taxpayer will have failed the pre-verification. It is therefore essential that HMRC has the taxpayer’s correct telephone number.

The taxpayer can correct the number held by HMRC by calling: 0800 024 1222. This number is only set up to update taxpayers’ telephone contact details; the call-handler can’t deal with further queries about the SEISS.

Step 3: Supply email address

When the taxpayer does speak to HMRC they must confirm or supply their email address. They must also agree to receive a link to a Dropbox account to that email address.

Step 4: Find the email from HMRC

The taxpayer must receive and open an email from HMRC that includes the Dropbox link. This is another point where the system could break down, as the HMRC email could easily be automatically sent to the taxpayer’s junk folder.

Step 5: Digital copies

The taxpayer needs to make digital copies of a form of their ID (eg their photo-card driving licence, or current passport) plus three months of their UK business bank statements from 2019/20. This information is needed to demonstrate that the new business has been active in 2019/20.

If the business has been run without a UK bank account HMRC will accept other documents, but the taxpayer must agree on what is acceptable in their call with HMRC.

Step 6: Upload documents

The taxpayer has only two days to upload the digital copies of their ID and bank documents to the HMRC Dropbox. After two days the Dropbox link will expire and the taxpayer will fail the pre-verification.

Step 7: Apply for the grant

The online portal to apply for the next SEISS grant will open in late April, HMRC hasn’t confirmed exactly when. All the above steps need to be completed before the taxpayer attempts to claim the SEISS grant. Tax agents cannot claim SEISS grants on behalf of their clients.