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image of arrow going upwards | accountingweb | Government consults on regulating tax practitioners
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Government looks to regulate tax practitioners

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As the government launches a consultation on raising standards in the tax advice market, Steven Pinhey looks at the details and what the effects of the outcome could be.

12th Mar 2024
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On Budget day, the government issued its consultation on raising standards in the tax advice market – strengthening the regulatory framework and improving registration. 

Outside of the tax profession, many people assume that the tax advice market (and its practitioners) is already regulated in a comparable way to auditors, solicitors and independent financial advisers. 

However, as readers of AccountingWEB know only too well, this assumption is incorrect, and at present anyone can set themselves up as a tax practitioner and provide tax advice to clients for a fee with little or no oversight. The government considers that this allows “a minority of [tax] practitioners who are incompetent, unprofessional or unscrupulous” “to operate, harming their clients and the public finances”.

Perennial thorn

The question of regulation has been a perennial thorn in the side of the government for years, often being placed in the “too hard to deal with pile”. However, in his 2019 Independent Loan Charge Review, Sir Amyas Morse recommended that “the government must improve the market in tax advice” and “establish a more effective system of oversight, which may include formal regulation, for tax advisers”.

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Replies (66)

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By deltaheavy
13th Mar 2024 12:24

Some great replies on here as usual. I hope as many of you as possible can (as I have) take the time to also reply to HMRC at:

[email protected]

My own story no doubt very similar to some folks on here, 'QBE', over 35 years of experience, training and CPD. Worked in highly regarded independent firm (all 16 or so partners ex big 4) and more recently for 4 years as a senior manager in a top 6 national/international firm. I have been successfully and happily running my own micro-practice since 2017. Supervised by HMRC for AML and carrying appropriate PI cover.

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By Agutter Accounts
13th Mar 2024 12:43

Hmm. We have all come across incompetence some of it from people who are supposed to know better. I have had clients come to me having been overcharged for help and advice that has either been sloppy or has resulted in clients getting a poor service.

I suspect this "consultation" will somehow get mired in bureaucracy just MTD ITSA and the fact that we are very likely to get a change of government later this year.

Meanwhile, please will government make sure HMRC is properly staffed and advice is actually available on its helplines. And while they are at it, how about simplifying our overly long tax code. Even those who have been doing this for years are dazed and confused on occasion by the system.

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By The Mad Fox
13th Mar 2024 13:02

HMRC, like many a government department, is falling apart thanks to underfunding and understaffing at the hands of successive governments.

Years ago the Inland Revenue was a good, efficient and respected organisation. It's an awfully long way back down a road that doesn't exist.

The powers that be need to rebuild one of the most important government departments that we have in the UK. I believe Gordon Brown started the process of reducing the Revenue's staff numbers and this has continued to a ridiculous degree.

So called regulation of tax practitioners is a difficult concept in today's world. Where are the 'policemen' going to come from to carry out the appraisals? AML and GDPR are examples of ideals that receive scant attention from the regulators.

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By Ajtms
13th Mar 2024 13:04

Long before we are regulated even further than we are now (most of us have membership of one or more professional bodies), the government needs to regulate HMRC independently from itself. I have lost track of the number of letters of complaint that I have to make to HMRC about their failings, errors and excessive delays. While the government is doing so they need to set up a regulator for the Post Office too. Only when there is an independent regulator that can ensure HMRC does things properly, with agents reporting their findings to that independent regulator, should honest and efficient agents like us be looked at further. We cannot afford to get things wrong as we would lose custom, but when HMRC does things wrong they do not.

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By indomitable
13th Mar 2024 14:58

Personally I have always thought 'accountant' or 'tax advisor' should be a protected word. what that would mean to the profession I am not sure.

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By AlanJames632
13th Mar 2024 16:46

Why do we regulate any profession? Why do we insist Solicitors and Barristers have taken exams and gained supervised experience? Same for Doctors? And Financial Advisers?

To suggest that someone has been doing the job for x years (often unsupervised) so must be OK to continue (unsupervised) is illogical. Those who argue against this tend to have vested interest in doing so.

HMRC should not be a regulator. It is an opponent and I for one have no issue with that. They take a view but they are not independent and in no way support / help (the vast majority of) taxpayers.

The industry needs a shake up. The taxpayer should be better protected - from tax advisers and HMRC. This is long overdue.

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Replying to AlanJames632:
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By johnjenkins
13th Mar 2024 17:00

HMRC are supposed to be impartial, perhaps give guidance but that's it.
The more HMRC have eroded that impartiality the more distant and arrogant they have become, then they wonder why nothing works properly.

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By PAULLEWISFCCA
14th Mar 2024 10:28

key date to remove myself from this farce

"You are invited to join testing of Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment from 22 April 2024

If you have clients who are self-employed or landlords with an annual income over £50,000, they will be legally required to start keeping digital records and send quarterly updates of income and expenditure to HMRC using compatible software from April 2026. This requirement will extend to those with an annual income over £30,000 from April 2027."

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Replying to PAULLEWISFCCA:
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By johnjenkins
14th Mar 2024 11:08

Got one last week. Clients aren't interested.

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By PAULLEWISFCCA
14th Mar 2024 10:29

so many problems could be solved by scrapping HMRC

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Replying to PAULLEWISFCCA:
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By johnjenkins
14th Mar 2024 11:10

Can't think how many times I've said that. Stupid thing is that HMRC had the chance of a lifetime to sort out all their mess with "Agent Strategy".

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By stephenj
14th Mar 2024 11:59

I remember many years ago - could be 20+ years ago - the Government was looking at this. I recall at the time that they were looking at the AAT to take in those who were not a member of another approved accountancy body as associate members. Then these associate members would have a period of time (it may have been four year) to sit and pass certain of the AAT examination papers. If they did this then the AAT would take them in as full members and they could continue to practice as accountants / tax advisors. If they didn't then they would have to close down their practice .However it all came to nothing as the Government decided not to go ahead with the need to be a member of a professional body.

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By Swimmingagainstthe Tide
14th Mar 2024 12:35

The worst tax advice offered to clients usually comes from HMRC. Maybe that should be where the government starts.

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By PAULLEWISFCCA
14th Mar 2024 15:07

50 minutes on hold so far today - my call is important to them though

but yet again chasing up something they should have done in august 2023 and i was told they would get back to me within two weeks when i last chased 14.02.2024 - surprise surprise they didnt - meanwhile they continue to issue penalties that are not due

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By VirtualAS
14th Mar 2024 20:05

Please join my Facebook group if you are an accountant impacted by this announcement

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1088369855750709

It is a safe space to discuss this news, think about strategies to deal with it, and generally support each other.

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By billgilcom
15th Mar 2024 12:05

They have more need to put their own house in order and use the screeds of legislation they sought and obtained to help them pursue and tackle the fraudsters and corrupt tax advisers/practitioners as opposed to trying to penalise and extract more money from the honest, compliant and hard working majority of tax advisers. We already have PPI and are supervised by HMRC for AML for which we pay their ransom fee to pay them for doing it.

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