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Is it ok that HMRC staff are told to lie?

Staff routinely tell the same story about agent authorisations, which isn't true

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I know we accountants all whinge about "lost" 64-8 agent authorisations, but why do HMRC tell their staff to fob us off with the untruth:  "that only authorises you to act online..."

IS it acceptable for HMRC to tell their staff to lie to tax-payers and agents...?

3 times today I have been told that I am not authorised to discuss PAYE matters with HMRC because there is no 64-8 agent authorisation in place.  3 times I have argued that I have done the online agent authorisation route and that is why I can login to my Agent Online account and change the employer's address (for instance) - I am not just limited to filing only.  My clients can also login to their Business Tax Account and see that I am the authorised agent for PAYE - all the right details there.  The HMRC website is absolutely clear that agents can be authorised for PAYE by using the paper form 64-8 OR the online authorisation process.  Indeed I have only used the online authorisation process for all new clients for the last 4 years or so.   And I speak to plenty of HMRC staff about most of those employers with no problem.  

But every now and again I come across the situation where HMRC's view of the system "loses" the authorisation. 

And still HMRC staff are trotting out the line "oh no, that only authorises you to submit stuff to us, not for us to talk to you..." or words to that effect.  The truth is, presumably, that something has gone wrong at their end, a system glitch or a fat finger or something, but the staff aren't allowed to say "I'm sorry something has gone wrong there and the quickest way to fix it is for you to send another online authorisation request".

I know in practical terms, that the only solution is to do another online authorisation or 64-8 form and wait to get back on the system, but why is it ok for HMRC to tell their staff to lie about this?  It must be the managers telling the staff to tell this lie as multiple different front line staff keep repeating the same "oh no, that only authorises you to submit stuff to us, not for us to talk to you..."

Twice today I pushed back and was told that I should phone the online services helpdesk (typical buck passing as we all know that the online services helpdesk will simply refer us back to the employer helpline). So twice I said that wasn't good enough, could they put me through to the next tier/supervisor/manager/technical support.  Twice they said they would only for the line to suddenly go dead... what a coincidence!

So I know this is a rant and a whinge and the only practical solution is to send another 64-8 or online authorisation, but really... 

IS it acceptable for HMRC to tell their staff to lie to tax-payers and agents...?

Replies (20)

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By GHarr497688
07th Sep 2021 20:09

I understand. With MTD4VAT I did a 64-8 for exemption in respect of all clients who were also on the agents portal. Recently the new DRVC caused an enquiry as the normal payment became a refund. HMRC would not deal with me until I submitted a new 64-8. I have to say now before I write to HMRC I send in a completed 64-8. HMRC systems are in chaos and the wasted time spent not only by Agents and clients but also HMRC staff is scandalous - off course like everything with HMRC "Joe" public are not aware and so HMRC get away with it. HMRC as a private business would not survive.

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By Paul Crowley
07th Sep 2021 20:50

Usually I try to avoid telephone calls to HMRC
But the HMRC inability to deal with letters within reasonable time means that calls are needed
I suspect there has been nil training since staff all started to work from home.

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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
07th Sep 2021 21:10

Lately, as we have emerged from lockdown and its attendant chattering away to some sympathetic HMRC dame in Scotland operating from her kitchen, I've taken to obtaining the clients' credentials / logins in order to get things done. That seems to work more more often than not.

It would appear that dealing with HMRC as an agent has become the slower lane. Clients seem to have a faster track. I wonder whether there's some connect between that new form of stonewalling and the new and shifting sands that is the UK GDPR. It hasn't escaped my notice that clients who are normally exempted from registration with ICO are being harried to reply, whether positively or negatively, to respond regarding registration. Tenuous? Perhaps. Nevertheless, I intend to investigate the matter.

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By rmillaree
07th Sep 2021 21:31

"3 times today I have been told that I am not authorised to discuss PAYE matters with HMRC because there is no 64-8 agent authorisation in place. 3 times I have argued that I have done the online agent authorisation route and that is why I can login to my Agent Online account and change the employer's address (for instance) - I am not just limited to filing only. "

I am probably going back into the dim and distant past here but from memory online authorisations (FBI2?) used to be separate and distinct from non online authorisations 64-8. Each had to be done individually and there is the possibility that there could be remnant clients showing up online that you do indeed have no authorisation for to speak to hmrc but are showing up online

It was also possible to end up in a similar situation for vat - again from memory this used to happen when client gave us authorisation from within their gateway - this was not a full authorisation simply an online one only.

I think its unfair to say hmrc officers are lying here they simply read the limited information they have on screen and can't really add anything to the situation -its actually possible they could be technically correct here but even if they are wrong which is likely its unlikely to bee malicious.

There are possibly other similar issues that can crop up - easiest to simply suck it up and appy for new pincode which will hopefully work. The good news is that nowadays generally spekaing the applied for pincodes for vat/paye/sa and corp tax are reasonably robust and other than clients saying "i didn't get the code gov" - thinks are actually better than the bad old days when the 64-8 catt processing team really must have been ditching or shredding stuff for whatever reason or were so inept they couldnt even follow the tickboxes that were included - all was ok till they stopped accepting faxes confirming what the reality was of the form you had sent in.
Hey ho

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Replying to rmillaree:
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By Barbara G
07th Sep 2021 22:05

I'm the same, going back a bit. (do you remember the days of the "big yellow sheet?" ?). I do the online agent authorisation bit (FB12) and also have completed and post to HMRC a paper 64-8. Takes about a fortnight overall to get it all set up, but thereafter seems to do the trick.

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Replying to rmillaree:
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By rcbarrettandco
08th Sep 2021 09:43

Many thanks for your response. I do agree with your point:
"I think its unfair to say hmrc officers are lying here they simply read the limited information they have on screen and can't really add anything to the situation"

I was trying to convey that. The front line staff simply follow a script, hence I suggest they are being told to lie. I suspect they themselves don't know it is an untruth.

The FBI-2 form way back was never a good idea (and doesn't seem necessary anymore...). But if that has given me the ability to edit a client's PAYE details (such as their address) online, but not be able to write in to HMRC to change their address, then that is another problem!
Their system is an utter mess.
And of course it always seems to happen when you urgently need to resolve a problem because the client is running out of money and is owed by HMRC...

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By Leywood
08th Sep 2021 00:09

Do they? Or do some give info they shouldn’t. I thought online was just for online. I’ve always done both and never had a problem.

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Replying to Leywood:
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By SXGuy
08th Sep 2021 07:31

I too had always believed online was filing only and 64-8 was authority to speak on behalf of. I've been told a few times on aweb I'm wrong.

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Replying to SXGuy:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
08th Sep 2021 08:00

it was oringally, but i think that changed.

nonetheless, whenever I write to HMRC, I always include a 64-8. It takes soo long for them to open the post that the last thing anyone wants is to them then write back to say I don't have authorisation.

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By rmillaree
08th Sep 2021 08:47

"I too had always believed online was filing only and 64-8 was authority to speak on behalf of. I've been told a few times on aweb I'm wrong."

As far as i am aware and i am reasonably confdent i am correct here IF you apply for online pincode for paye or vat in old skool agent area now that covers everything. Thats my default route - albeit we always try and get 64-8 as backups
64-8's are only normally needed though for individuals or companies without UTR's.

I am reasonably confident FBI2 will never on its own allow one to speak to hmrc so this could be the issue the OP has had. Perhaps some bods are confusing FBI2 applications viapaper form with online pincode applications when they say otherwise.

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Replying to rmillaree:
Pile of Stones
By Beach Accountancy
13th Sep 2021 12:08

Some of my PAYE authorisations were marked as FBI2 only, despite me doing the full online authorisation/ 64-8 route. Funnily enough over the course of this year they have upgraded themselves to full authorisation...

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RLI
By lionofludesch
08th Sep 2021 07:21

Governments lie all the time.

They have no integrity.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
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By Paul Crowley
08th Sep 2021 09:35

Intregrity is for people, not organisations
My firm can have integrity as I run it and I make the decisions

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By SXGuy
08th Sep 2021 07:29

Been going on for decades.

"I don't see a 64-8 in place Mr SXGuy"

He's been our client for over 20 years you've lost it

"if you could send another in"

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By HiddenAccountant
08th Sep 2021 09:42

Only ever done a 64-8 once to deal with a new client SA enquiry and was emailed to the inspector in charge.

Always done the online authorisation code via post for all HMRC services and only twice have I been told you don't have authorisation.
Once was PAYE, the other was SA which really got to me as I had spoken to them 3 days prior about this client and was fine so I may have been screaming down the phone on my second call when they refused. Later found out client had filed for bankruptcy and not told me which is why I lost authorisation. Poor HMRC staff who I was not very kind to and have learnt my lesson.

I find the post authorisation robust and worry when this is no longer an option as clients will be forced to create an online account to authorise us electronically. I can see this happening next year for VAT.

Tip - when asked do you have 64-8 in place always say yes even if you only have online authorisation and they don't seem to dispute this, at least in my experience. Don't try and explain you can see then online so you must have.

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Replying to HiddenAccountant:
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By Hugo Fair
08th Sep 2021 12:53

So, lie to the liars ... that figures!

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By HiddenAccountant
08th Sep 2021 22:49

I have always considered the online authorisation as a 64-8 as I said I have therefore never used a paper 64-8 for any clients (1 exception as above). I therefore do not see this as a lie.

I think it's about being smart and using the systems to your convenience and not making your life more difficult to work with what at best is a broken system.

As commented above, if HMRC were a private business they would go bust very quickly. But unfortunately we do not have a choice but to work with them.

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Replying to HiddenAccountant:
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By Hugo Fair
08th Sep 2021 23:22

Quite ... I was commenting on the kafkaesque situation one ends up in when trying to get anything to work via HMRC (not criticising you).

[There are countless examples - my favourite being when you are forced, for a 'deemed employee' under IR35, to enter an 'Employment start date' even though that individual has no such contractual date (nor indeed employment rights) ... but if you don't enter this falsehood, in order to submit an FPS, then you are failing to comply with the PAYE regs].

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By Charlie Carne
13th Sep 2021 10:12

There is absolutely no need to use a paper 64-8 form any more, unless the client's address as registered at HMRC is no longer valid (as that is where the code applied for online will be posted) or the client does not yet have a UTR. Per HMRC, "It’s easiest to do this online using HMRC Online Services. If you cannot set up authorisation online, you’ll need to get your client to complete one of HMRC’s paper authorisation forms."

That page makes it clear that the online authorisation process is the preferred method and the paper 64-8 does not convey any additional levels of authorisation. As others have pointed out, with the sole exception of the FBI2 for PAYE (a pretty pointless form these days, I should think), either we have authorisation or we do not so, if HMRC tell us that we "only have online authorisation" for a matter other than PAYE, you can refer them to that page and tell them that such a position does not exist. If we completed the online authorisation process for PAYE but are told that we only have FBI2 access, then that should be challenged, as that limited authorisation is not possible in the absence of the paper FBI2 form.

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By Roland195
13th Sep 2021 11:07

I think you are being slightly unfair here jumping to the odd conclusion that HMRC staff are either deliberately misleading by design when it is far more likely that they genuinely don't know any better - Hanlon's Razor basically.

I was told the same line regarding VAT a few weeks ago by a fairly senior officer albeit this one predates any MTD switch to the new fangled method but was left with the distinct impression that they didn't have the first idea themselves.

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