Agent Services Account prepares to go live

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Richard Hattersley
Community correspondent
AccountingWEB
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HMRC is currently testing the Agent Services Account with a small number of agents before launching it more widely later this summer.

A digital update from HMRC’s virtual communication group (PDF edition hosted on CIOT website) revealed in July that paper forms and postal applications are being replaced by fast and secure digital services for agents.

However, the digital update offered no further information about when project would go more widely into use.

When it does make its debut, the Agent Services Account will be the gateway to HMRC’s Making Tax Digital infrastructure and all its online facilities. Firms will need to create an Agent Services Account to connect their agents with their accounting software in order to access client tax information and share updates with HMRC.

Once the account is created firms can link their existing agent codes and from there. This system will replace paper 64-8 authorisation forms and firms will not be required to re-authorise when acting for existing self assessment clients.

To add a new client using the service, firms will submit a request through their software to the client, and the client will then accept or reject the request.

With the dramatic delay announced to the MTD timetable in July, some of the pressure to deliver key elements of the infrastructure has subsided. AccountingWEB members recently welcomed the availability of Self Assessment pre-population APIs (application programming interfaces) in some commercial systems, but developers are still waiting for many others. The link to connect commercial systems to the Agent Services registration process promised by the end of June has still not arrived.

Anyone who wants to get an update on where things stand on the API situation can register to take part in HMRC’s Talking Points webinar on the issue at noon on Friday 18 August.

Elsewhere, however, HMRC has become a hive of activity for all manner of digital submission mechanisms.

Online submissions replace paper forms

Recent communications from HMRC have highlighted its determination to purge paper from its processes and move submissions online. As reported last week, two-step verification is now mandatory for individual and business taxpayers, which makes it harder for advisers to access data from those accounts.

Kate Upcraft has also detailed how the Business Tax Account (BTA) will function in a separate article.

HMRC Agent Update 61 included details of other online systems that are now available and AccountingWEB members reported getting a message from HMRC this week informing them that from Tuesday 15 August, “We will only provide employment history information by telephone where that information is necessary to help you complete your client's self assessment return and you are unable to obtain it from them.”

Telephone requests are also now off the HMRC menu for paper copies of the SA302 tax calculation. The tax department said it has liaised with the Council of Mortgage Lenders to ensure they accept “self-service” copies of the calculation from the client’s online tax account or commercial software.

“Now that we have made all the changes required to allow agents to self-serve online we will no longer be issuing paper copies of the tax calculations directly to agents from the 4 September 2017,” in what the ICPA characterised as the death of the SA302.

Also up and running is Inheritance Tax online, a new mechanism for executors to update HMRC and apply for probate on their estate. The new service is available for personal representatives to apply for probate for people in England & Wales where no inheritance tax is payable on their estate.

Professional agents acting on behalf of clients will have to stick with existing paper processes.

Submission and claims processes for the venture capital schemes (EIS, SEIS and Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) are now undergoing private beta testing. A digital service to apply for such schemes is up and running and separate compliance statement submissions (forms EIS1 and SEIS1) will follow later this year.

A new Trusts Registration Service (TRS) is now operational for trustees to register their trust online. The mechanism is accessed using the individual’s government gateway credentials and replaces the 41G paper form, which was withdrawn at the end of April 2017. Agents will be able to register on behalf of trustees before October 2017 and services to report changes of circumstance and variations to trusts will follow.

The lack of support for agents under the TRS and IHT systems reflects a continuing blind spot at HMRC about the need to create services for taxpapers and their agents. The phased introductions complicate the situation for everyone and are creating a backlog of additional development work.

For example, any new trust with a tax consequence needs to be registered by 5 October 2017 and existing trusts will have to supply additional information through the new service to comply with the SA deadline on 31 January 2018.

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