HMRC have successfully swallowed a dictionary

... but forgot to ingest the dessert (a translator for their techno-babble)?

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The latest Agent Update contains a mini-article, appropriately in their Making Tax Digital section, as follows:

"Removal of functionality to copy across existing VAT clientsto agent services account ...
When using their agent services account (ASA), agents can copy over existing client relationships for VAT and Income Tax Self Assessment (ITSA) customers from their old Government Gateway ID.
We will be removing the functionality to copy across existing VAT clients to ASA from October this year. Ensure that your existing VAT clients are copied across to your ASA before this date.
Once this functionality is removed you can authorise VAT clients using the digital handshake authorisation route available in your ASA."

Aside of noting that it would have been nice (a) to receive a little more warning (especially if the bulletin is lying at the bottom of your post-holiday 'investigate later' pile) and (b) that an explanation/justification would've been polite ... my attention is focussed on the final sentence.

I *think* I know what they're on about, but suspect that a straw-poll would generate a large majority of blank faces when people are asked for their understanding of a "digital handshake authorisation route"?

Have they not yet cottoned on to the fact that the majority of their users (sorry agents / customers / mugs) don't have to be technophobic to find such language bewildering ... which is why I find it appropriate that it appears in their MTD section (since everyone they know obviously wakes up each day in eager anticipation of the joys of more 'things' digital)!


And just in case you think I'm being oversensitive to the language, try their approach  to logic in another Bulletin article - this one on the Marriage Allowance.

"Where both the transferor and recipient of marriage allowance report their income via Self Assessment, it is recommended that the transferor’s return is filed 72 hours prior to the recipients. This allows sufficient time for the marriage allowance relationship to be established on our systems and prevent cases from falling out of automation.
Marriage allowance elections made solely in Self Assessment do not become enduring and carry on into future years. Elections made solely via Self Assessment will need to be made each subsequent year by completing the relevant boxes on the transferor’s return.
Elections made outside of the Self Assessment return (online, telephone post etc.) will become enduring and carry forward each year until the customer cancels the election. Where an enduring election exists, and either spouse is a Self Assessment customer, no entries are required on the marriage allowance section of the return. The calculation will be updated automatically to show the transfer of allowance upon receipt of the return."

On the plus side all of that is entirely intelligible (if a little on the turgid side of heavy going), but was there ever a better example of lack of joined-up thinking in their processes?

It seems transparent that their 'solution' to the mess is to NOT change any of their processes or software (even the bits with day-one design flaws) and to concentrate solely on requesting people to do unnatural things (like two spouses, who may well have different agents, having to ensure their returns are made in a weird HMRC definition of the 'correct order' - and after leaving a 72+ hour gap in between them)!

Of course I can see absolutely no likelihood of confusion when you apply their 2nd & 3rd paras across a couple or more years (coupled, sorry, with changes in agent or even partner whilst SATR is used/dropped then used again) ...

Replies (8)

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By spilly
17th Aug 2023 13:08

They must have been using the Plain English Campaign’s random phrase generator instead of their Drivel Defence tool.

Thanks (3)
By GHarr497688
17th Aug 2023 14:58

Well I will be retired by 30th September 2023. Half of what HMRC say makes no sense at all so whats the point in even saying it. At the moment my clients are exempt from MTD Vat. So I go to my old gateway then click on the old link to file which takes me to the new gateway and after that I just type in the VAT number and the old style vat filing screen comes up. Do I need to do anything ?

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By Catherine Newman
17th Aug 2023 15:06

I have pointed this out on the Agent Forum before.

PTP Software needs entries in the transfer of Marriage Allowance boxes to be able to get the calculation. HMRC don't seem to grasp it.

Clients don't want to do digital handshakes so they don't happen.

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By More unearned luck
17th Aug 2023 16:58

Re the MA

"Elections made solely via Self Assessment will need to be made each subsequent year by completing the relevant boxes on the transferor’s return." This isn't what the law says.

Section 55D says " election continues in force in each subsequent tax year..." this is qualified by changes in circumstances but not by the method of making the claim. What is more (as I don't think s42(2) TMA is disapplied) where the transferor has been issued with an NTF the making of the claim within an SA return is the only lawful way of making the claim.

I'm just highlighting the mismatch between HMRC's practice and the law. You would think that they would issue the same set of instructions to their computer programmers as they do to the parliamentary draftsman. But apparently they don't. Nor do draftsmen and women, it seems, liaise with the programmers.

Thanks (2)
Replying to More unearned luck:
By richard thomas
17th Aug 2023 18:05

I'm afraid they are (sort of) right in law, for once. Section 55D(3) says that an election made after the year to which it relates is not "enduring", and you can only make a return after the year to which it relates.

However if you make an election using the appropriate form in the year you want it to start applying from, s 42(2) TMA does not apply, not only because no s 8 notice will have been issued, but also because that is what s 42(10A) says. It will then be "enduring" until revoked.

Whether that also mucks up HMRC's processes is something I do not know.

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Replying to richard thomas:
By Hugo Fair
17th Aug 2023 19:16

"Whether that also mucks up HMRC's processes is something I do not know" ... and, I have a horrible feeling, neither do they (know).

For instance:
- W is not required to submit SATR so makes an election outside of that channel (online, telephone post etc according to HMRC) which becomes enduring;
- H is already required to submit SATR but leaves his election until the next due SATR (which means the two submissions are in the 'wrong order' - I think) ... but how can W have enduring status and H annual-only?

- having somehow resolved that mess, in next year W is required to submit SATR (for unrelated reasons) and - seeing the box - completes her election in there ... with unknown results (will it be ignored or will it cancel her enduring election and start a new one-year election or something else entirely)?

I could go on but there's no point - other than that HMRC have a set of disjointed processes (that were never planned together nor retrospectively engineered to fit together) ... which unfortunately is not exactly a first for them.

As MUL indicated, you might expect at least that the same set of instructions be issued to their computer programmers as to the parliamentary draftsman (or at least that they would cross-check with each other) - but those days are long gone.

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By Tom+Cross
18th Aug 2023 16:07

Well, at least it's Friday and Sir Harra and his team get put back in their box, for the weekend. But, it's hardly "Toy Story" is it!

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By Jimess
24th Aug 2023 11:30

I spend more time on the phone with the HMRC helpline trying to sort out MA claims on the tax return that they miss when processing the return than anything else. One HMRC agent helpline representative tried to tell me that the transferor client had to ring HMRC and set the claim up before the tax return was submitted so that it could be put through - this was on an existing claim that had been running for a few years and was already included in the transferee's PAYE coding.

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