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HMRC to remove agent access without AML proof

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If agents from professional bodies don’t respond to an HMRC letter confirming their AML supervision, they may lose access to online HMRC services. 

19th Jan 2022
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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.  

HMRC's statement

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.”

Replies (101)

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
19th Jan 2022 09:34

Left out, worn out and now thrown out!

Who'd be an ASP these days?

(well a slithery snake would, obviously)

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Replying to memyself-eye:
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By Michael C Feltham
19th Jan 2022 12:02

Britain's equivalent of the old East German STASI (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, ) otherwise known as HMRC are now utterly out of control!

"Who'd be an ASP these days?" Well, there is the nub: if our professional bodies were really interested in their members, rather than simply charging evermore exorbitant membership fees, then would have jumped on Government and the various ministers with big boots. They haven't and they won't, simply because in the case of the CCAB they simply follow the directions of the top ten and in general since they are all on a nice little earner. For themselves.

The UK Stasi or HMRC could not have chosen a better time to disrupt tax and income reporting; perhaps their devious plan is to collect vast amounts of penalties for failing to file and pay the tax due?

Write to HMRC: nice idea. I am still waiting for responses for two letters written to them back in October! Nowadays, we cannot fax them or in 99% of cases email them, either. They are hiding.

Now legally there is a very interesting point here. What HMRC are saying to any practitioner when they pull their agent registration without any notice is that the agent is guilty of a criminal act.

"A business must not trade without registering with HMRC under the regulations. Trading while not registered is a criminal offence. It may result in a penalty or prosecution." Quote from government's own website.

Now the last time I checked, in Britain a man or woman is innocent of a charge of criminality until and unless they are proven guilty beyond doubt. In France, of course, their system works under the Code Napoleon: i.e. one is guilty until and unless the individual is able to prove they are innocent beyond doubt.
However, clearly, HMRC are now acting as arresting office, judge and jury and applying a sanction. Nice.

Just imagine trying to explain why you as an appointed adviser were unable to file Joe the Plumbers' tax return on time! His attitude would be "Bloody accountants!"

A work around could be to instruct clients to register themselves for a reference and access: however how long would this take? HMRC are not noted for the speed of their response!

Final point; I would advise all affected to post necessary documents etc by Special Delivery in order that they have in their possession clear proof of delivery, against a signature.

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By jon_griffey
19th Jan 2022 10:18

Never mind 'suspending access', if firms are acting outside the law then HMRC need to go round and close them down. Many firms get by simply using client logins anyway.

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Replying to jon_griffey:
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By Hugo Fair
19th Jan 2022 11:02

Yes but any sane organisation (alright I know we're talking HMRC here) that aimed to deliver a project like this (one accompanied by the 'stick' of putting you out of business) would acknowledge the possibility of missed or incorrect targets being hit ... so would make sure that the plan had a 2nd leg (a clearly communicated and fully resourced channel through which such errors can be speedily corrected)!
[I'll skip over the laziness that's prevented them from looking at data already held.]

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Replying to jon_griffey:
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By Paul Crowley
19th Jan 2022 20:33

+1
As usual HMRC are shooting those stood up cos it is so difficult to find those real targets in the trench operating outwith their view by using clients gateways

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ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
19th Jan 2022 09:58

So … which address are HMRC going to use to right to me? One of the ones that are 10 years old and can’t be changed on their system?

Am I the only one who’s actually a little worried that they won’t receive the letter?

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
wolfy
By rob winder
19th Jan 2022 10:09

I'd never thought of it but its a good point.

I'm in this position too, it's a bloody joke that they can't update my now defunct address.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Homeworker
19th Jan 2022 10:12

atleastisoundknowledgable... wrote:

So … which address are HMRC going to use to right to me? One of the ones that are 10 years old and can’t be changed on their system?

Am I the only one who’s actually a little worried that they won’t receive the letter?


I'm OK so long as they don't write to the address on my agent PAYE record, which I have also been trying to change for nearly 10 years!
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Replying to Homeworker:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
19th Jan 2022 10:17

I think CT is the only correct one they have for me. Poss PAYE but don't know. Defo not SA or VAT.

Maybe they'll send a letter for each agent code i.e. 4+ letters to each firm?

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Replying to Homeworker:
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By tanyajackson
19th Jan 2022 11:30

The same for me. Gave up years ago trying to change it.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
By Michael Beaver
19th Jan 2022 10:40

I am worried, now!

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
By Michael Beaver
19th Jan 2022 10:40

I am worried, now!

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Replying to michaelbeaver:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
30th Jan 2022 11:01

michaelbeaver wrote:

I am worried, now!

You’re welcome :D

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By norstar
19th Jan 2022 10:06

Not seen it yet. Surely it would be quicker for HMRC to check this to a list provided by the regulatory bodies....

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Replying to norstar:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 10:14

exactly my thoughts. Also we are still regulated for audit so our headed paper states that so couldn't HMRC make the link to AML regulation with audit registration? We do still send them letters so they have copies of that.

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Replying to norstar:
By Michael Beaver
19th Jan 2022 10:37

Because that would require, you know ... actual work from their side?

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Replying to norstar:
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By dwgw
19th Jan 2022 18:15

Exactly - and couldn't the regulatory bodies actually have done something useful for their members for once, proposed this to HMRC and offered to supply the relevant information from their records.

Of course, that would mean HMRC having to check off the list themselves and the institutes having to do something to justify their exorbitant subscription and AML supervisory fees. Fat chance of either of those things ever happening.

I'll be so glad to get out of the bureaucratic morass that tax practice has become - and I won't be continuing as a retired institute member either!

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By Vallery Lee
19th Jan 2022 10:12

Why in January? If it is to check up what was wrong with October or November?

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Replying to Vallery Lee:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
19th Jan 2022 10:15

Vallery Lee wrote:

Why in January? If it is to check up what was wrong with October or November?

They've got to do something with the people no longer manning the webchat.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Latinaid
19th Jan 2022 11:42

atleastisoundknowledgable... wrote:

They've got to do something with the people no longer manning the webchat.

What, all three of them?

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By Vallery Lee
19th Jan 2022 12:15

Well they could be answering the phones or even answering the mail!

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Replying to Vallery Lee:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:09

Because that might smack of sensible and we know that government in any guise in any country do not do sensible

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By sjmaccounting
19th Jan 2022 10:14

Will HMRC take the usual length of time to deal with correspondence? Could result in many agents being suspended even though they've replied

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Replying to sjmaccounting:
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By Ajtms
19th Jan 2022 12:54

In my experience over the past 2 years, HMRC's turnaround time to answer post is 9 months. This is also what HMRC tell me when I telephone to chase. I have not received one of these forms, but when I do, my response will be copied by email to Jim Harra and also my MP.

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By andrewfry999
19th Jan 2022 10:16

I had this issue last November. I never received a letter from HMRC regarding AML compliance. They removed access to self assessment and CT from my agent portal so I couldn't submit any returns.

I rang HMRC and was told you cant speak to the agent compliance team, I would have to write a letter. I did so and sent in my practicing certificate which specifically states I'm regulated for AML by my professional body, CIMA

From now on I'm going to send my practicing certificate to HMRC every year.

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By Mark Garrett T and A
19th Jan 2022 10:16

I've had two letters and replied to both. Not sure what happened to the first one! At least HMRC are now using my correct address for PAYE agent matters three and a half years after I moved !

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Replying to Mark Garrett T and A:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
19th Jan 2022 10:18

Was each letter for a different tax?

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By APS7
19th Jan 2022 10:17

I have had certain services suspended in relation to this, despite replying, with, all the information requested. It took forever to find someone that was able to help me, only for them to say we have all your information I do not know what's happened!
Took around a week to get everything switched back on but with half of my client base missing.
There are no details to be able to contact HMRC, so several letters have been sent to the complaints department, but still no answer for their justification of almost ruining a small business (I have lost time, money and clients).

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By IanClark
19th Jan 2022 10:24

We were caught by this in December.
Letter in September asking for lots of info which we supplied (admitedly we missed they wanted written proof of AML supervision) Letter in October identical in every aspect to the first to which we replied stating that we had already replied.
Then nothing, until we are cut off without warning or notice in December.

Letter arrives 7 days after we are cut off to tell us they have cut us off, still no explanation as to why.

No email address, no phone number, they only deal in writing through Birmingham. Online services simply tell you to write in

Five working days is optimistic especially when you have no idea WHY you have been cut off.

Many formal complaints in of course, at least one of which has gone to second stage.

Oh, and if your company or any of the partners or directors owe any form of tax whatsoever they will not put you back on until it is paid.

The reality of "Working Together"

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Replying to IanClark:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 10:28

Do what I have done in desperation on two unrelated cases - I sent an e mail to the chief executive. Amazing how quickly things get resolved

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Replying to The Innkeeper:
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By Red1960
19th Jan 2022 10:35

Haven't got the email address have you?

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:24

have sent you a pm with details

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Replying to The Innkeeper:
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By Jack the Lad
19th Jan 2022 13:06

Please send it to me also, as I have been waiting for replies to correspondence re AML for 3 years!!
Many thanks.

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Replying to The Innkeeper:
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By Jack the Lad
19th Jan 2022 13:06

Please send it to me also, as I have been waiting for replies to correspondence re AML for 3 years!!
Many thanks.

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:24

have sent you a pm with details

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:24

have sent you a pm with details

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:26

have sent a pm

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:26

have sent a pm

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:26

see pm

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:26

see pm

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:26

see pm

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:26

see pm

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:27

Have sent a pm

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Replying to Red1960:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:27

Have sent a pm

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Replying to The Innkeeper:
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By APS7
19th Jan 2022 10:43

Please share contact details

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Replying to APS7:
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By The Innkeeper
19th Jan 2022 12:26

have sent a pm with info

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Replying to The Innkeeper:
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By Paul Crowley
19th Jan 2022 20:41

Just post it on here
HMRC do not read enemy propoganda sites like this one

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Replying to The Innkeeper:
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By whatzup1uk
23rd Jan 2022 22:36

Can you please send me the email address too? My access was blocked on Friday.

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By Red1960
19th Jan 2022 10:33

Congratulations to the professional bodies for doing such a splendid job representing their members and the public's interests.

It's genuinely comforting to know that they are ahead of the game in ensuring that HMRC's more wayward and totalitarian inclinations are being moderated so effectively.

If you ever wondered how your hard earned prof subs were being spent you now know it wasn't on this and may instead be asking why bother with prof bods anyway.

Mrs Bennyworth I believe the floor is yours and your subject is "The Defence of the Indefensible".

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Replying to Red1960:
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By jameswheelan
19th Jan 2022 11:43

I received the dreaded AML letter back in September, called up my professional body to check what evidence was needed only to be told that I didn't need to send anything in as HMRC will get in touch with them and confirm. How stupid of me to take this advice as correct.

CT and SA services suspended for 6 weeks, massive stress, many false horizons, complaints, phone calls....you know the rest.

Perhaps they can discount my membership fees this year??!

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