Agents locked out of business accounts
HMRC re-iterated that the renamed 'Your tax account for business' (YTA) will not be available for tax agents to see or use.
HMRC confirmed in a webinar last week that only one access per business is allowed for security reasons. So the old trick of shadowing the taxpayer won’t be available either.
Instead, the tax authority said, accountants will use agent online self-serve (AOSS). Although, frustratingly, it failed to give a satisfactory answer to agent questions around AOSS, specifically in regards to launch dates, during the presentation.
HMRC acknowledged the need to give agents access in parallel with the roll-out of the YTA. HMRC said, however, that it did not want to delay roll-out of the YTA and they gave no indication about when it will work for all tax agents.
AOSS is currently only available to agents with less than 200 clients within each tax and only PAYE payments and liabilities are visible to agents. This effectively restricts it to one person accountancy firms.
This will not alleviate fears that Making Tax Digital (MTD) will sideline accountants.
Critics in parliament
Agents’ reaction to Making Tax Digital has been notably fractious. Subsequently, the debate in Westminster has also grown increasingly heated as the government’s grand digital reveal in 2018 edges closer.
Head of the Treasury Select Committee Andrew Tyrie was the latest to admonish government in a recent skirmish with David Gauke.
Tyrie said it would be unacceptable if companies had to purchase hardware just to meet the new digital tax obligations. He also cautioned Gauke about the fast pace of MTD’s rollout.
“For the vast majority of businesses and many individuals, [MTD] may be a sensible direction of travel. But there are some - for example, those who do not currently use computers or for whom quarterly reporting would be a substantial burden - who understandably remain very concerned about these proposals.
“The requirement for all businesses to maintain a digital tax account needs to be tempered by provisions for those for whom this would be an unreasonable burden.”
Many critics have pleaded with government not to make MTD mandatory, at least initially. Gauke parried this suggestion in his appearance before the Treasury Select Committee. Gauke told the committee that the new policy would only achieve a fraction of its potential gains if it was not mandatory. “Some £6.5bn is lost each year as a result of errors made by businesses, and I make no apology for seeking to tackle that.”