HMRC to remove agent access without AML proofby
If agents from professional bodies don’t respond to an HMRC letter confirming their AML supervision, they may lose access to online HMRC services.
Accountancy bodies have alerted their members to respond to an HMRC letter with confirmation of their anti-money laundering (AML) status to avoid having their tax agent codes suspended.
In a recent letter, HMRC called on agents regulated by a professional body (rather than directly regulated by HMRC) to complete and return a form with documentary evidence of their AML supervision. There are a number of ways this can be evidenced, such as a letter of confirmation from the professional body, for example.
The impact of ignoring the letter is stark. Agents will lose access to some HMRC online services. Although they still may be able to sign into their HMRC agent online account.
The Institute of Finacial Accountants (IFA) said in a letter to its members that some agents have already had their tax agent codes suspended. The IFA CEO John Edwards noted that these “firms have been unable to file any returns on behalf of their clients until the codes have been re-instated which can take five working days or more”.
How to get proof
The ICAEW's tax faculty flagged to ICAEW members that what isn’t clear about HMRC’s letter is that a letter of confirmation form must be included in the response. However, each professional body has its own form of proof of regulation.
The ICAEW, for instance, advises members to obtain this letter by contacting [email protected]. While IFA has agreed with HMRC that it’s members can use a firm fee invoice from the IFA to confirm supervision. The latest paid invoice will show the date that supervision expires.
ACCA , meanwhile, has instructed members to provide HMRC with their firm’s ACCA ID number together with their practising certificate or copy of the firm’s OPBAS levy that was raised on the firm's myACCA portal during the practising certificate renewal period.
ACCA has also confirmed that it’s had a couple of practitioners that have had their services turned off by HMRC. The professional body told AccountingWEB that it is supporting members to make sure HMRC has the right data.
"Glenn Collins, the head of policy, technical and strategic engagement at ACCA, advised registered members not to ignore the letter and that they should inform HMRC that they are registered with ACCA. He added, “ACCA registration is publicly available and our members know that HMRC has that information.”
“In effect, HMRC is writing out letters to batches of firms on their database rather than targeting specific agents."
Bad time to lose access
HMRC will periodically write to agents to request confirmation of regulation. But those that miss the brown envelope in January will find losing their agent access even more frustrating during the peak of self assessment season.
“Having access to your agent portal shut off means your day to day activities and interactions with HMRC on behalf of clients are massively compromised, you can’t do work and you’re having to put things back in the position where they were before through no fault of their own,” said ACCA’s Collins.
A HMRC spokesperson said, “All Accountancy Service Providers (ASPs) are required to be supervised for AML. To protect the integrity of the AML supervision process, there are occasions when HMRC may need to write to ASPs to confirm which Professional Body (PB) supervises them for AML (where HMRC clearly doesn’t).
“The process by which HMRC does that is to send the ASP a letter. If the business fails to engage with us by not providing the required information, we ultimately need to conclude that they are not supervised and therefore are not compliant with the law.
“This may result in the suspension of their access to HMRC online agent services. HMRC would encourage ASP recipients of this information request to reply promptly to clarify details of their PB supervision.”