HMRC to Pilot New Tax Agent Strategy

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 Print Email

HM Revenue & Customs has published the responses to its consultation on plans to change the way it works with tax agents.

The consultation, Establishing the future relationship between the tax agent community and HMRC, outlined proposals to enrol tax agents, who would be able to self serve basic transactions between clients and HMRC, and the development by HMRC of an ‘agent view’ to support communication.

HMRC says responses included questions about how enrolment would work in a multi-office/multi-location firm, and some concerns about the robustness of HMRC systems and the security needed to enable agents to self serve.

There were also concerns that the agent view was a step towards regulation 'by the back door’, while a large number of responses were about formal qualifications, with many agents calling on HMRC to accommodate those who are 'qualified by experience' as well as those with formal qualifications.

As a result of the consultation, HMRC is planning to pilot an ‘agent enrolment process’ involving a wide range of volunteer agents in late spring 2012, with a view to starting full enrolment in 2013.

HMRC also plans to create a ‘learning lab’ from Spring 2012, working with a representative group of agents to focus on understanding what information, access and services make a real difference to the customer experience and how they might best be designed.

In addition, HMRC intends to hold further consultation in 2012 on standards, oversight of the agent community and the role of any proposed independent body or advisory group to the Commissioners.

CIOT president Anthony Thomas welcomed the proposal to ‘decouple’ the self- service facility from the agent view plans and the fact that HMRC had indicated it accepted the need for independent oversight. Thomas said this was ‘absolutely critical given the impact of sanctions against tax agents.’

HMRC’s head of employer and agent strategy, Brian Redford, said: ‘We recognise that some concerns were expressed about some of our proposals and we acknowledge the calls for greater clarity. In some areas we will proceed at a slower rate to make sure we get things right and we will continue to work closely with agents and the professional bodies as we take this work forward.’

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