Last month HMRC made an announcement that appears to have gone unnoticed among the majority of the accounting profession, or if it was noticed its importance has been missed, says Jennifer Adams.
The announcement confirmed the disbanding of three of the five groups originally set up to liaise and consult on issues arising from the HMRC Agent Strategy. The Joint Tax Agent Strategy Steering Group (JTASSG), the Agent Engagement Group (AEG) and the Joint Initiative on Service Delivery (JISD) have all gone. The reasons given were duplication of work: unsurprisingly, the same concerns were being raised whichever group was consulted.
The different groups were found to be either unnecessary or had diverged from their original purpose. Such was the speed of the disbandment that minutes of meetings that have taken place have already been consigned to the archive section of HMRC’s website.
Now the contact between the agents who work for HMRC’s ‘customers’ and the higher echelons at HMRC will be more direct. They are (in order, from the ground up): the Working Together (WT) groups; the Issues Overview Group (IOG); and the Joint Initiative Steering Group (JISG). This direct link can only be to taxpayers/practitioners’ advantage.
The work of the IOG is specifically to collate issues brought to the attention of HMRC’s representative at WT Group meetings and to consider whether those issues are important/relevant enough to pass higher up the chain for consideration. The IOG obviously has more than enough work as it uses a scoring spreadsheet to weight the viability of each issue presented, ranking in order of impact, gravity and importance.
The overview group usually only considers similar issues raised by more than one WT group, the groups receiving feedback should the issue be deemed not important enough for further consideration. JISD issued updates on its work - written in non- jargon, which make interesting reading on what exactly is happening within HMRC.
Working Together groups – anyone interested?
Evidence of the profession’s lack of understanding and interest is not hard to find. AccountingWEB member johnjenkins confirmed what many think: “Keeping in touch with agents. We’ll continue to use existing channels to communicate with you and gain feedback. Now what channels are they again? Oh yes there aren't any.”
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- Composition of a WT group
- The work of a WT group
- What you can gain from participating in WT groups
- Should WT groups stay or should they go?
What are your experiences of Working Together, and do you think it should play a more significant role in the new look HMRC consultative landscape? Come and join the debate.