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Advertising Standards Authority Ruling Against Tax Agents

The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) has banned adverts from three tax repayment agents for making various claims about their business that were unclear.  The ruling was in relation to the following companies:

  1. Phillipson Hardwick Advisory Ltd t/a The Tax Hero
  2. Quickly Finance Ltd t/a Fast Track Reclaim
  3. Total Tax Claims Ltd t/a Total Tax Refunds

All three advertisers misleadingly implied that their free online tools would confirm whether customers were entitled to a refund from HMRC.  The ads exaggerated the refund payable to consumers, as well as not making clear that the agents would deduct a fee from the refund, and two of the three advertisers failed to make it clear that, in using these services, customers would be transferring the legal benefit of their claim to the advertiser, which could have an impact on other repayments owed to them for preceding years.

Miles Lockwood, Director of Complaints and Investigations at the ASA, said:

“These rulings make it clear to tax repayment agents that they need to provide transparent information about these services and avoid misleading consumers. They need to make it clear what costs are associated with their services, and whether the legal benefit is transferred from the consumer to them.  We’re monitoring the situation, and we’re considering further enforcement action in this space in the near future.”

Our opinion

This is all well and good, but in 2017 the ASA also ruled against some advertised claims made by a tax avoidance scheme.  But this particular ASA ruling made absolutely no difference because the website, along with the disputed advert wording remained in place unchanged for at least six months.  So whilst we should absolutely welcome intervention against the tax repayment agents, the ASA’s track record means we’re not convinced it will make any difference at all.

Notwithstanding, it is right that the misleading claims of these firms are dealt with because contractors will have wrongly expected to receive more money than they were entitled to.  Inflating anyone’s income expectations is unethical and action should be taken by any applicable professional or regulatory body in addition to the ASA ruling.

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