HMRC online leaves agents in the cold

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We all know HMRC wants to make tax digital; every new regulatory system it invents involves another online registration.

Recent examples include: 

What irks me about these new systems is that the business or employer is obliged to comply, but it cannot allow its appointed tax agent to complete the registration process on its behalf. HMRC admit that these systems are not designed for use by agents. 

Why not?

The official answer is that HMRC is developing the Agent Online Self Serve (AOSS) as an the way for tax agents to interact with HMRC’s systems. However, it is not clear what AOSS will allow tax agents to do, and when this service will be ready for use by all tax agents...

Register for free with AccountingWEB and log in to read the full article, which explains HMRC's plan to roll out AOSS to tax advisers.

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15th Feb 2016 11:58

I have said this

in the past and will say it again. What right have HMRC to takeaway the right of a tax payer to appoint an agent to look after their tax affairs? None at all. If HMRC carry on this route they will come unstuck "bigtime". It only takes one court case.

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15th Feb 2016 18:09

John Is So Correct!

johnjenkins wrote:

in the past and will say it again. What right have HMRC to takeaway the right of a tax payer to appoint an agent to look after their tax affairs? None at all. If HMRC carry on this route they will come unstuck "bigtime". It only takes one court case.

This is the most profound comment thus far.

Clearly, HMRC and Government have increasingly made life hard for advisers; unless, that is, top ten working for such as Starbucks, Google, Vodafone et al.

Indeed, by drastically changing the appeal process from the old tried and trusted Commissioner's Hearings, to a very adversarial emulation of the civil court, (with now, significant fees for even daring to make any appeal in the first place!), HMRC's behaviour can almost be likened to a Star Chamber.

Now just imagine... The Home Office decide to prevent solicitors acting for clients and advising them on usual commercial areas; contract, debt, etc even IHT; and further prescribe a new regime where the only lawyers able to represent clients are barristers in a court of law.

Of course, government wouldn't be able to make this one run as far too many politicians are lawyers!

After all is said and done, it is government and idiot politicians who have, with treasury's and HMRC's keen assistance, made UK tax codes and law so staggeringly complex: not the public and taxpayer; and not accountants and HMRC's answer to this is to carry on making tax more complicated still (with each new Finance Act), yet try and deprive the poor taxpayer of equitable assistance and assurance.

 

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By Mehmet
15th Feb 2016 12:03

HMRC "One step forward, three steps back"

One step forward, three steps back.

The HMRC slogan!

 

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15th Feb 2016 12:03

Only 200 clients??

I may be reading the comments incorrectly but am I to believe that 88% of agents have less than 200 clients. I am a sole practitioner and we filed 1,044 personal tax returns last year so does this put me in the top 12% of agents whilst as a firm of Chartered Accountants I would consider myself small. Either there must be a huge number of tax agents out there not regulated by any of the principle accounting or taxation bodies or my little practice is much larger than I thought.

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15th Feb 2016 12:51

Reality!

jrussell.reesrussell wrote:

I may be reading the comments incorrectly but am I to believe that 88% of agents have less than 200 clients. I am a sole practitioner and we filed 1,044 personal tax returns last year so does this put me in the top 12% of agents whilst as a firm of Chartered Accountants I would consider myself small. Either there must be a huge number of tax agents out there not regulated by any of the principle accounting or taxation bodies or my little practice is much larger than I thought.

Stark reality time, jrussell.

A majority of ICAEW and ACCA members in public practise are sole practitioners.

Identical with AIA, IFA, AAT et al.

Government and indeed, FRC and thus HMRC believe what is reported to them by CCAB: who are effectively controlled by top ten practices.

Worse, when ACCA gained its charter (against considerable opposition!), they made it a condition of issue of a practice cert that practising members automatically became RAs and thus suffered the compliance, annual audit etc additional costs.

However, as I have stated on these boards oftimes before - and I made this point, forcibly, to a senior honcho at what was the DTI in a meeting -  circa 48% of UK's private sector GDP is generated by SMEs as is 45-7% of employment. More significantly, the largest tranche of SMEs are owner only outfits and the largest concentration of employees falls into the 0-10 employee segment.

Hardly the happy hunting ground for top ten firms?

Now, since the big boys wouldn't acknowledge an SME if they fell over one, and as it is their perspective which is reflected to CCAB and thus FRC and Government, then it is hardly surprising HMRC blithely create chaos after utter confusion and pointless err, "Strategies" is it?

I once had high hopes for Mark Spofforth, since before being asked to join the main board of ICAEW, Mark had chaired the ICAEW's Small  Practitioner's Committee. We were in touch thereafter and he clearly had assumed the mantle and mien of the exclusive Big Boy's Club.

'Twas ever thus...

 

 

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15th Feb 2016 12:15

Technical question

If I should need to file an unauthorised client's return on the 31st January (heaven forbid!), and I used their laptop but my office router to do so, would that trigger an alert?

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15th Feb 2016 12:19

Standard duplicity afaics

The UK tax system is now so complex that nobody, including HMRC, understands it.Having a Tax Agent gives you a fighting chance . . .
By removing the tax agent HMRC subverts even that fighting chance.
The possibilities to increase revenue (sic) by fines and late payment charges is therefore vastly enhanced, esp. sinc HMRC no longer acknowledge receipt of anything, and the enforcement of HMRCs worst case [from the taxpayers p.o.v] interpretation of written regulation will further go unchallenged and become precedent - and so it goes on . . .
What surprises me is that anybody is even slightly surprised at their mendacity.

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By norstar
15th Feb 2016 12:56

Stuffed

I am not a larger agent, but I've just over 200 clients. So stuffed really. Can't do my job!

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By RogerMT
15th Feb 2016 13:13

Security is subjective

I'm sure I won't be alone in saying that a number of my clients, while not being computer illiterate, have zero desire to ever log on to their Govt Gateway accounts, and so if I use their account to submit a form, with their permission I hasten to add, and the client has rarely if ever used it, how would HMRC know that it was the agent and not the client logging in?

Conversely, if a client uses it all the time from a number of locations, while on the move through wifi etc, would HMRC view that as "suspicious activity" and put a block on the account? I think not.

I consider the last paragraph of the article to be a typical piece of scaremongering from HMRC.

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15th Feb 2016 13:20

Are HMRC not aware that there is a whole army of undisclosed agents filing very incorrect stuff on line using their clients codes already.

Why should they have an advantage?

If the client has given you authorisation ?

The possibilities for online fraud and tax repayments are brilliant.

What better way to pay as much tax as you would like.

If you want income just put down non existent dividends, seen that done worked a treat with SA302's

Why they keep making it easy for tax evaders and fraudsters is anyone's guess.

going to be funny when the identity fraudsters realise how much this market is worth.

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15th Feb 2016 17:56

Sums it all up perfectly!!

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By KenKLM
15th Feb 2016 13:26

Deluded

It sems HMRC are set on a course of individual on-line registrations for each client and blocking out the agent . They are deluded if they think clients will not want , at every turn , their agents to complete returns , etc for them . My biggest concern at the moment is this move to stop allowing agents to use the "free" on-line software for Corporation Tax returns - what logical reason can they give for this ?? I cannot help but think the top 10 firms are driving some of this to help protect their client base as clearly the broader accountancy professional are not being consulted (as usual)

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15th Feb 2016 13:51

Online account access

We've just been through a process of having all of our clients give us written authorisation to specifically access their PTA and have warned our clients that HMRC may contact them to talk about unauthorised access. I await the first security alert with excitement

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That explains it!

I tried to register on a client's behalf this morning to payroll benefits in kind and hit a brick wall. The PAYE employer helpline told me that I could register on behalf of clients. It was the first question I asked and was told I could do it by two call handlers. When it did not work I was put through to the Online Services Help Desk who said they new nothing about Payrolling Benefits in Kind. My clients are far too busy to log in HMRC and set this up themselves.  

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15th Feb 2016 14:47

88% of tax agents have fewer than 200 clients in each tax servic

Sorry, but we are a two man practice working from home and filed more than 200 tax returns.  Does this make us a large firm too?!

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By fbuttle
15th Feb 2016 15:07

Does anyone know how HMRC can determine if an agent uses sign-on details of a client, with his permission, and what the dire consequences are that Clarke alludes to? Also, is there any legislation currently in force which prevents a client from exercising his/her right to allow a third party to use his access credentials if he/she wants to?

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15th Feb 2016 15:59

Security

Just like an online  bank if you logon using a different computer the banks system will know and will either block it or ask you to go through security questions such as two factor authentication i.e. a code to a mobile or sending an email with a specific url. Not sure what HMRC are doing but rest assured they know from which machine you are logging in.

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15th Feb 2016 16:35

200 clients in EACH tax service ie

 

200 PAYE

200 CT

200 Income tax

200 Benefits in kind

200 Alcohol Wholesalers

200 Inheritance tax

200 Insurance premium tax

 

now I am getting carried away

 

Do they mean you need 200 in each category to be in the 12%

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15th Feb 2016 18:05

Should we be awkward?
So what happens if agents decide to join the awkward club and have some kind of co-ordinated action where we all use client credentials on the same day, perhaps 1st April? Perhaps this would send a message to HMRC?

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16th Feb 2016 13:00

Should we be awkward

Great idea Tim Robinson - we could all ask for forgotten IDs and passwords on 1st April for all our clients!

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By SXGuy
15th Feb 2016 20:00

It's just getting silly now
Currently we can still file clients tax returns via our own gateway credentials using software. I don't see why this can't be done in the future whether it be quarterly or not. The issue here is the ability to obtain data in relation to a client.
I fear what this will do is create a situation where an agent can file info for a client but if a client has a question about anything, the agent will be forced to shrug and suggest the client ring hmrc themselves. Not very good business.

No client of ours has any intention of using hmrc online services either because they are to busy or just don't understand it. After all that's why they pay agents to do it for them.

No matter how hard hmrc want to push this isn't gonna change. And so it can only lead to more penalty charges and investigations being raised.

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16th Feb 2016 08:55

Impractical

Surely using x number of different client logins as opposed to one agent login is impractical.

How about this;

Just completely ignore the personal tax account, which is likely to end up a total shambles, with HMRC importing data from all over the shop. Submit quarterly figures, spending 10 mins putting together and do proper yearly accounts. Reconcile the actual amount due and advise client to pay that less payments on account made.

HMRC will no doubt start issuing demands for £X and we can just write back sending a copy of the correct information and tell HMRC to sort out the chaos at their end, as we do not have access to the personal tax account.

Bit like RTI.

 

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16th Feb 2016 10:19

HMRC Agents

On 23 December 2015 I applied in writing for an agent ID. On 29 January I received  a letter requesting additional information. The delay of over 5 weeks meant that I was not able to file my clients' tax returns on line.

What are the staff at HMRC doing all day if it takes over five weeks just to send a standard letter requesting information?

Needless to say I shall fight the inevitable penalty charges when they appear.

 

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By norstar
16th Feb 2016 13:54

If we were anything else, we'd go on strike

If this sort of thing was done with Firefighters, Doctors, train drivers etc, we'd have a body representing us to co-ordinate strike action. You know, something to remind those who have forgotten, just how important we are.

Unfortunately, petty rivalry and lack of focus by the big Accounting bodies has meant this hasn't, and will not happen.

At some point, if this type of action to marginalise agents continues, action will need to happen because as I see it, accountants and taxpayers are gradually having their rights eroded in order for HMRC to make up the deficit through fair means or foul. We all cry foul play, but what does that do?

If accountants do not do anything or if they simply retire or leave, HMRC will get exactly what they want which is unfettered access to small taxpayers who will likely cough up whatever is asked of them on demand.

To me, this is a frightening and grossly unpalatable prospect.

I have written to my MP and would urge others to do the same. I have also written to the ACCA. That's the least we can all do to safeguard both our profession but also the client's rights.

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16th Feb 2016 15:28

Girraffe

norstar wrote:

I have written to my MP and would urge others to do the same. I have also written to the ACCA. That's the least we can all do to safeguard both our profession but also the client's rights.

 

The ACCA are only an organisation that collects fees in good faith.

Your Local MP is probably as corrupt as the others.

Good luck

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16th Feb 2016 14:22

No worries

Talk of strikes is ridiculous, we're not a bunch of public sector moaners.  I don't see too much to worry about here.

Fundamentally, unless the UK tax system is simplified AND HMRC becomes an 8 out of 10 tax service compared to the 1.5 out of 10 I scored it in the last survey, we don't have much to worry about.

Because until both those things happen millions of people will continue to need accountants.  At this stage both of those factors are moving in the wrong direction:

1.  The dividend tax is just another added complexity to the system, not to mention Auto Enrolment and all the rest.

2.  In 2009 I scored HMRC 3 out of 10, it is now 1.5 and shows signs of falling further.

The miners discovered 30 years ago that when you are supplying something at the wrong price with low demand and readily available subsistutes, you are in a very weak position.  Well UK accountants as a whole supply a service at the right price, demand outstrips supply and I don't see any Roumanian folks figuring out the UK tax system anytime soon so available and credible substitutes are scarce.

This latest load of drivel from HMRC will end in tears.  Their tears not ours.

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By chatman
16th Feb 2016 14:31

Low demand for coal?

mr. mischief wrote:
The miners discovered 30 years ago that when you are supplying something at the wrong price with low demand and readily available subsistutes, you are in a very weak position.

Low demand for coal? We're still turning lots of it into electricity now aren't we?

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16th Feb 2016 14:40

In 1984 Lord Marshall had very kindly stockpiled nearly 2 years' supply of coal at the CEGB stations.  Thatcher invited Scargill to mount a Charge of the Light Brigade suicide attack on a heavily defended position and he accepted the invitation.

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16th Feb 2016 15:21

We are perhaps being invited out too

You never know they might have paid someone £900k a year to test how damaging bullying can be.

Much cheaper if you can get the victims to shoot themselves before a fair trial.

Maggie did demonstrate that the destruction of a whole industry can be achieved with the right partner Scargill for political reasons.

We are an abusive little nation so perhaps the end of Uk plc is a good thing.

 

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16th Feb 2016 17:03

Writing to MP's won't do a lot

of good. That was done before and Gauke just read from an autocue, which is what is being done at these "consultations". The House of Lords is the best bet when the Government try to get the quarterly accounts (oops sorry, figures helping their customers, submitted on a quarterly basis whiuch is not up for negotiation) through parliament. Is there an MP with balls enough to take on this case or do they actually all believe that this course of action will bring in more money, quicker.

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By SXGuy
17th Feb 2016 09:25

It's not practical
To have a small business with say a 15k turnover file quarterly accounts. Vat registered or paye businesses sure I get it. But the odd part time cabby? More hassle than its worth. Could see a situation where agents are called upon more but the small agent simply doesn't have time or resource to file figures every 3 months

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17th Feb 2016 14:43

Yes we do!

Just bang any old drivel in, press submit and forget about it for another 3 months.  No worries.

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17th Feb 2016 15:24

So 200 clients

quarterly figures to be submitted in 7 days. Yer right.

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By CG
19th Feb 2016 09:12

It is not just online matters.  I wrote to HMRC in January about a client not in SA so a PAYE only client.

HMRC has replied to my letter by sending a letter to the client with no copy to me.  I have rung HMRC who confirmed an agent authority is noted on the client's record yet HMRC would not go over their calculation with me on the phone.  They will send copies of the calculations out to client who can forward them on to me but HMRC won't send copies of PAYE calculations direct to me as agent.

What purpose is the agent authority for any more.

 

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By SXGuy
19th Feb 2016 10:00

Least they have it
I've lost count of the times I've heard "have you sent in a 64-8. No mate we've only been their agent for 20 years. They lose them all the time anyway.

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21st Feb 2016 17:56

HMRC scored 1.5 out of 10 by agents

May be explained by the low satisfaction scores HMRC receives from its annual staff survey...

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21st Feb 2016 19:57

Suggestion for ICAEW and all

If this should become law, I have a practical suggestion for ICAEW, ACCA etc:

1.  We comply in full.

2.  We do this by filing on 6 April each tax year for all clients, for all quarters in advance!

No fines for non-compliance or late filing, job's a good 'un!

 

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