I remember well, when I was learning my trade as an accountant in the eighties, how useful form 64-8 “Authorising your agent” was.
Back then, it was the key to being able to have friendly (usually), informed and time-saving telephone conversations with HMRC regarding a particular client. It meant you could talk directly with the Tax Inspector dealing with that client’s affairs at your local tax office; someone you knew by name and, in most cases, had met face to face.
It therefore made perfect sense to get all clients to sign a 64-8. It was in everyone’s interest and all parties (the client, the accountant and the tax office) benefited.
Now, fast forward to 2010. Times have changed. Things are much, much different. If I was starting a new practice now, I would make it a rule that we did NOT allow ourselves to be authorised under forms 64-8.
The form has become a poised chalice for accountants. The client still benefits from the arrangement, and HMRC certainly do, but the accountant? Absolutely not. For the accountant, being the authorised agent now just means lots of extra hassle, wasted chargeable time and paper handling.
The 2010 version of the 64-8 arrangement for the accountant means fighting your way through call centres (who might never actually pick up your call), remote HMRC administrative offices and revenue staff who have little idea what you are talking about. The client gets frustrated with you, thinking that you are not doing your job properly, or making excuses. Of course, they don’t want to pay you for all this wasted time.
Then there’s the paper mountain that a modern form 64-8 brings to your office. Huge piles of client statements of account are just one example. You process all of this paper, soaking up more staff time and then spend even more time because you find errors that need to be corrected. Back to the call centre merry go round again.
So, I say let the clients deal with HMRC direct. Let them understand how much time this takes and let them call you in (for a fee) when they either can’t cope, or put a higher value their time. And let the revenue take the flak from the client when they prove to be inept on a regular basis.