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HMRC go full circle

4th Jul 2012
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I wanted to register as a VAT agent for a client. It seems you can't add a client to your existing registration so I registered again, and got an error code when I attempted to register the client. I emailed the Online Help Desk.

Response - Unfortunately this helpdesk does not provide support for VAT or The VAT online service.
Please contact the VAT Online Helpdesk on 0845 010 8500, or you can email them using the link below, and selecting VAT Online Services Helpdesk.

I emailed that the link was broken.

Response - Thank you for your email.
Apologies, the link has now moved to:
Online Services Helpdesk
Website: Zyx

I filled in their OnLine form and got an automated response-
Reference: 528838506
Thank you for your email, which HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) received on 25/6/12.
Your message is now being allocated to one of HMRC VAT online advisors for action and you will receive a response within 15 working days.
The HMRC response will either answer your question in full, or will let you know what progress has been made towards resolving your question and when HMRC expect to be able to have a full reply for you.

The detailed response was as follows-

To register for VAT for Agents as a VAT-registered agent please follow the steps below:
1) Go to the website.
2) Select 'Register (new users)' from the 'Do it online' column on the top left hand side
3) Select 'Register', under 'New Users'
4) Select 'Agent'
5) Tick 'VAT for Agents', click 'Next'
6) Follow the steps to create a password, be given a User ID, and to enrol for the VAT for Agents service.

Within 7 days of enrolment you will also receive an Activation Code by post to finalise your VAT for Agents enrolment.
Once the activation is completed, you will be able to begin 'Authorising' your clients, allowing you to submit their VAT returns online:
1) Navigate to 2) Select 'Log In' from the 'Do it online' column on the top left hand side
3) Select the 'VAT' option from the list provided under 'Registered users'
4) Login with your User ID and password
5) Select 'Authorise client' on the left-hand side of the 'Your HMRC services' page
6) Select 'Request an authorisation' and follow the on-screen instructions.
Once the client has forwarded you the Authorisation Code, and you have entered it, you will be able to submit VAT returns on their behalf by selecting 'Access service' next to VAT for Agents on the 'Your HMRC services' page.

Well this didn't tell me anything new and didn't help me solve the problem, so I emailed them again.

Needless to say, Step 4 does not offer the options you seem to think it does.
there is no "AGENT" to select.
The options are to register with the "government gateway" or "self assessment" both of which I have already done.
Next suggestion?
The link provided doesn't work.
But having logged in to the service, when I select "Authorise Client" I get:

However, If I log in as an agent using my normal ID, although I enter the information correctly, the client authorisation fails.
What I want to know is, how do I authorise a client when the system won't let me? Please supply address to write to so that I can obtain authorisation OUTSIDE the HMRC on line system.

All I got in response was an auto email saying the email address I used was not available for sending questions, please use the link to the HMRC pre formatted form.
I wrote back-

Is there anyone at HMRC who can actually deal with this, as opposed to just issuing a standard reply which doesn't even allow the agent to enter into correspondence with the VAT office?
These are my responses to HMRCs email, which cannot be replied to because it's a non response email address.
(I shall be posting all of this correspondence on AccountingWeb)

I was amazed to receive a reply from the OnLine helpdesk which stated that they couldn't deal with VAT matters-

Your email has reached HM Revenue and Customs Online Services Helpdesk. The Online Services Helpdesk can only help if you are having technical problems trying to send in your Tax Returns over the Internet.
For a specific enquiry like yours, please contact your Tax Office. You can find the telephone number of your Tax Office in the Phone Book under 'Inland Revenue', or by using the online Tax Office locator at

Now what chance is there of getting any sense out of a Tax Office (call centre) over an online registration problem?

In exasperation, I wrote back-

None of your suggestions concerning contact with HMRC are suitable for this query as they don't allow two way correspondence between HMRC and the Agent.
There is no "ask a question" at this address. only a FAQ tab.
Do any of the people who write HMRC response emails ever actually look at the sites about which they write?
Is anyone else going to reply to my questions, or should I publish this just as it is?

And I got a reply, which said-

Thank you for your email.
As your enquiry is about VAT, you will need to contact the VAT Online Services.
Their contact details can be found at the following link:
The answer to your previous email was generated by our autorespond feature. As this did not answer your query please accept our apologies.
Online Services Helpdesk

So after a week of correspondence I'm no further forward.

HMRC have sent me emails with two links that don't work or include defunct websites.
They have sent me round in a huge circle and I've now arrived right back where I started, at a website that does not allow two way correspondence and only uses a prepopulated format.

When I use the link on the VAT OnLine Help page, it goes to a prepopulated page which asks me the same questions which resulted in a failed registration a week ago.

So my question is, does anyone know how to register as a VAT agent without using the online form? Should I write to God at Southend?

Today(16/08/12) I received a letter from HMRC Business Tax Change Directorate addressed to my client, but ( as is now usual with HMRC VAT letters) no return address on it, telling me that I could attend a face to face VAT online support meeting to help me register.
It asks me to attend ( the nearest place is 70 miles away) and to take the same information that they request on line for agent registration. I know that this info doesn't work on their system because I've already entered it and failed to register, but no one at HMRC will tell me why.


17th September 2012

After a couple of weeks of email correspondence through the abysmal HMRC portal, my Agent Account Manager, the delightful Carrol, passed my information over to the VAT specialists, with the promise of a resolution next week. That was a month ago, and I fear that no solution will be forthcoming.

29th October

After sending a reminder to Carrol, my Agent Account Manager who presumably has security clearance to deal with HMRC matters, she replied:

The responses I have been given to date are that some of the details are wrong - and for security reasons they could not tell me what was wrong.

So not only will they not tell me what's wrong with the information I submitted, they won't tell ANYONE. And for those who missed it the first time, THE INFORMATION WAS TAKEN FROM A PHOTOCOPY OF THE LAST VAT RETURN SUBMITTED AND FROM THE CONTACT LETTER RECEIVED FROM HMRC.

Carrol says she'll be in touch next week. I can hardly contain my excitement.
Well she wasn't, but eventually

As if to celebrate the end of the world (or is it the second coming?) I heard from John Bubb, who informed me that I had to include the pennies in the VAT PAID box. I logged on and entered the pennies and it was accepted. Wouldn't it have been more impressive if someone had told me that when I first contacted them six months ago? Confusingly, the amount shown as an example is £1000.00, which ,like Boxes 6 and 7 appears to exclude pence. Perhaps a note to this effect would be helpful.
However, it shows that HMRC read these blogs and hopefully react to the comments. If nothing else, this one has shown the horrendous shortcomings of HMRC's Online Advice/Help system. Perhaps someone at HMRC could examine the "automatic response" system, which doesn't work, and allow a little human intervention. I know this involves using employees, but sometimes there's no substitute for a human being ( even if it is a HMRC employee).

P.S. I thought this was over and done, but today the client delivered his books to me to complete the VAT return for the year ended 31st December 2012, AND THERE WAS A PAPER VAT RETURN!

So do I complete this, or do it on line, or both?

I've emailed the VAT helpdesk, and I should get a response IN 15 DAYS. (No sense of urgency at HMRC , is there?)
As expected HMRC took two weeks to reply. Do they have time delays on their In Boxes so they only display emails that are twelve days old?
Anyway, they said to submit the return on line. In the meantime I got a call from John Bubb enquiring as to whether all the problems had been resolved. I can now answer "Yes". (Assuming the payment details on the back of the PAPER RETURN are correct.)

Today I got a letter thanking me for a Claim to Reduce (SA303). "This cannot be accepted until I fill in the missing information in the highlighted boxes. The SA303 is returned herewith. Please send it back to the address at the top."
(No SA303 was enclosed.)



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Replies (3)

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By Rebecca Cave
04th Jul 2012 15:01

contact the Agent account manager service


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By pauljohnston
17th Sep 2012 13:12

Time to go back to Carol me thinks.

As a long stop you could write to HM Customs in LOndon (Summerset House?)  Whether you should include an email address is debateable.

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By Old Greying Accountant
22nd Dec 2012 15:24

Why not ...

... send a 64-8 to Longbenton?

Unless it is for a new VAT Registration that is what you are meant to do if not getting authorisation online.



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