Why don’t HMRC respect the 64-8?

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Let’s be 100% upfront: when I ask ‘why don’t HMRC respect the 64-8’ I don’t mean that they refuse to recognise that an accountant has been appointed (always assuming they accept that a 64-8 have been correctly lodged, that is).

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No, I’m complaining about the fact that HMRC are failing to recognise that when a client signs a 64-8 (I know they don’t sign a paper form anymore) they are authorising HMRC to recognise their desire to have someone they nominate to deal with their affairs and to act as their representative, until such time as the authority is withdrawn.

Ask any taxpayer what this means and they will say, quite simply, that they only want to get involved with HMRC on a payments basis, as in only when paying their tax (of course they’d rather they didn’t have any to pay any at all but that’s another story). They don’t want to correspond with HMRC, and they don’t want to talk with HMRC, which is why they appoint us to act for them.

I’m not privy to the exact number of taxpayers with an agent, but I’m guessing there’s an awful lot of taxpayers who have duly appointed accountants to act for them. Yet when it comes to designing changes in the tax system HMRC seems to forget all about us, as we are last in the queue for consideration.

Why is this? Take Making Tax Digital as an example. Why is it that we still cannot see exactly the same information on screen that our clients and HMRC can see? Another oversight, perhaps?

I thought I’d exhausted all the possibilities whereby I, as an agent, was unable to use the system to its maximum, and then I came upon the complaints procedure.

If you want to make a complaint to HMRC there are two very useful iForms available. HMRC are pushing this route as the most effective way forward. The only problem is that these forms are for an individual and a business and guess what – there isn’t one for agents! But don’t worry, they are hoping to develop one. There you go – agents are last in line again. These iForms first appeared about two years ago and HMRC didn’t think then that we were important enough to actually have the same facility they are offering our clients. That has to be the case, because surely they hadn’t forgotten about us, had they?

HMRC are at pains to say that they value the work that we do and that they need to work with us to get greater value out of the agent community. Well, if you keep forgetting we even exist whenever you make a change you will not endear yourself to us.

The time has come for HMRC to start building bridges with the agent community. It starts by them adding us to their to-do list, to the extent that they don’t have to keep apologising for leaving us in the dark.

• Tony Margaritelli Chair, ICPA