HMRC launches online Working Together group

HMRC, Taxation and AccountingWEB.co.uk have teamed up to bring the Working Together initiative into the internet age, with an online forum to open up discussions to those who do not participate in local groups.

Overall, the Working Together initiative is designed to provide a forum for information-sharing, consultation and discussion between HMRC and tax advisers to help the department identify problems and improve its operations for the benefits of agents and their clients. The Working Together e-group on AccountingWEB will mirror the activities of local groups, but will take place online as an on-going forum.

While many issues surfaced through anecdotal reports and queries raised in Any Answers, the group’s objective will be to quantify the scope and impact of problems based on evidence from clients and members. These points will be brought to HMRC’s attention and dealt with in the same way that local Working Together groups report.

Before an issue is referred up to the national level, local groups have to complete a template describing the issue, the number of agents that it is likely to affect, whether there is any way to work around it, and confirming that the group has taken responsibility for checking that the issue is not one which has already been explained by HMRC in their publications.

Writing in Taxation, editor Mike Truman explained that following a fallow period after the 2005 merger of HMRC, there has been a concerted effort to rebuild the local Working Together group structure, which includes HMRC staff members, practitioners and representatives from professional bodies including the CIOT, ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS, ATT and AAT. Around 60 local groups now operate across the country, which you can contact via the directory on HMRC’s website.

"These local groups, feeding up into a national structure, are the basic building blocks of Working Together, and I would encourage you to get involved in a local group, or to refer issues to your local representative if you are a member of one of the institutes concerned," Truman wrote. "However, issues do inevitably also get raised with the trade press, both in print and online. Until now we have not had any way of formally taking them further, but I am pleased to say that as from today, we have."

In parallel with the new Working Together e-groups, HMRC plans to upgrade the online communications infrastructure for the initiative, so that local groups will be able to browse summaries of top issues, FAQs and Working Together news announcements. The Working Together pages on Businesslink.gov.uk already address the most commonly raised problems by agents and include a Tax Agent Widget you can paste into your website, Twitter page or Facebook page.

Brian Redford, HMRC’s Deputy Director Intermediaries and External Communication, Business Customer Unit, HM Revenue & Customs commented: "We are delighted to be joining forces with Taxation and AccountingWEB to create a Working Together e-group. This new group is a natural extension to the valuable work already being carried out by our local Working Together groups. We anticipate some valuable learning from extending the Working Together model online."

The online Working Together group is open by request to registered and profiled members of the AccountingWEB community who are interested in collaborating with HMRC to help improve the services it provides. Register your interest in joining here.