From 1 May 2017 HMRC will change its practice of confirming individual pay and tax details to tax agents, who ask for this information over the phone.
When you ring HMRC to ask for the pay and tax details of a client, you expect to be given that information, if you are authorised to act for the taxpayer you are asking about. From 1 May HMRC won’t give you that information, even if you are authorised to act. HMRC will instead send the information in a letter to the taxpayer, at his last known address, but they won’t send a copy of this letter to you.
HMRC says this change is to reduce call handling costs and to increase security for taxpayers. HMRC receives 2.7 million requests by phone for taxpayer pay and tax details each year, and not just for employed taxpayers who are within self assessment. A good deal of those calls are from high volume repayment agents, but many are not.
The security concerns are due to callers impersonating the taxpayer. There are also instances where the taxpayer is not aware they have signed an authorisation form 64-8 and/or a deed of assignment for tax repayments.
When the taxpayer contacts HMRC, they will be given the requested details over the phone, or be directed to access their personal digital tax account. This does beg the question as whether this change in practice breaks the spirit of Your Charter (the taxpayers’ charter), which says at point 1.5:
“We’ll respect your wish to have someone else deal with us on your behalf, such as an accountant or a relative. To protect your privacy, we’ll only deal with them if they have been authorised to represent you, and we’ll deal with them courteously and professionally.”
Under the new practice, even where the agent is authorised to act, that agent will not be able to deal with HMRC on the taxpayer’s behalf.
From 1 May there will be a short recorded message on the Agent Dedicated Line (0300 200 3311) to explain the new procedure. HMRC will also write to 5,000 agents notifying them of the change, and will announce the new practice in the next edition of Agent Update.
From late summer 2017 HMRC expects to have a digital solution in place to allow authorised tax agents to access pay and tax details for clients, without making a phone call. It’s not clear if this solution will be available to all tax agents, or if the agent will first have to pass a new security clearance to access the data.
HMRC has said that all new data access solutions will only be provided as APIs, as described by Matt Bailey in his article on Tax return pre-population data.
About Rebecca Cave
Consulting tax editor for Accountingweb.co.uk. I also co-author several annual tax books for Bloomsbury Professional and write newsletters for other publishers.