HMRC recently invited 25 agents to a presentation in Portsmouth to tell them about its new digital strategy. Jennifer Adams was there and presents her feedback on these new processes.
“Digital by default” is the current theme guiding the future of all government departments, not just HMRC. What this means for the tax department was set out in a December 2012 document entitled HMRC Digital Strategy, which defined the main components of the new approach, what changes are being implemented and when.
There are numerous benefits from digital services including reliability, speed and convenience, but the key reason behind the government’s strategy is cost. Paper costs money to process.
According to HMRC, it handles 80m pieces of paper per year relating to self assessment, and processes 1.3m paper 64-8 authorisation forms, each of which has to be inputted manually by employees who could be better employed in a more cost effective (and more interesting) role.
When the digital plans were announced back in 2012, HMRC recognised that to deliver the strategy it needed to:
- understand the agent population and the links to clients’ behaviours
- reduce exposure to cybercrime by bogus agents
- move agents away from paper towards digital interactions with HMRC
- enable authorised agents to digitally see and do what their clients can see and do.
The department’s Tax Agent Strategy is progressing along these lines, the speaker explained and the purpose of the Portsmouth meeting was to give accountants, many who run their own practices, more detailed insights into the Agents Online Self Serve component of the strategy and to solicit their feedback...