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Tax agents locked out of SEISS claims

The self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) will be open for applications from 13 May, but tax agents are barred from claiming the grant on behalf of their clients.

5th May 2020
Tax Writer Taxwriter Ltd
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On 4 May HMRC started to contact taxpayers who it believes are entitled to claim an SEISS grant, telling them to be ready to claim when the portal opens next week.

HMRC has also appealed to tax agents to help their clients prepare, but tax agents won’t be able to access the SEISS portal to make grant claims on behalf of their clients.

Genuine or scam?

The initial contact to self-employed taxpayers is being made by email. Or, if the taxpayer has no email, HMRC will text message where it has a mobile phone number. Only where HMRC does not hold an email address or mobile phone number for the taxpayer will it send a physical letter, but this letter may not arrive until next week.

There are already numerous scam texts circulating purporting to be from HMRC, such as the one reported by AccountingWEB reader codling in which their client was asked to reply with their UTR number. As codling noted this information could be used by the scammer to make a fraudulent claim.   

The genuine emails and texts from HMRC do not include an active link to click on; they only tell the taxpayer to be ready to claim. 

Not necessarily eligible

The fact that the taxpayer has received this initial contact about the SEISS grant from HMRC doesn’t mean that they will meet all the criteria to receive the grant. HMRC will have the information about the trader’s profits for the years to 2018/19, but to claim the SEISS the taxpayer must also have traded in 2019/20 and be intending to trade in 2020/21. This information about current and future trading intentions will not yet be available to HMRC.

The other conditions for the SEISS grant are discussed in Coronavirus self-employed scheme: Get the details right.   

HMRC is encouraging taxpayers to use its SEISS eligibility checker tool to check whether they can claim. However, this online tool only asks for the taxpayer’s UTR and NI numbers, it doesn’t ask about current or future trading intentions. Tax agents can use this checker on behalf of clients, and ask HMRC to review the case if they think a client has been incorrectly rejected as ineligible to apply.

The taxpayer is not required to use the checker tool in order to make a SEISS claim. However, if they do use it and provide an email address as requested for further correspondence, this may speed up the process of the claim. HMRC will use that email address to tell the taxpayer exactly when the SEISS portal will be open for them. This will be a specific date between 13 and 18 May, with different days allocated to different taxpayers.

Locked out

The ICAEW said its members will be very disappointed that there is to be no agent access to the SEISS portal. The professional accountancy bodies have pressed HMRC for agents to be included in the process. But as Glyn Fullelove, president of the CIOT, confirmed, there was a balance of priorities between the speed of implementation and the extra functionality required to add agent access.

Tony Margaritelli, chair of the ICPA, said the exclusion of tax agents from the SEISS portal went down like a lead balloon with his members. He added, “Accountants are appointed by clients to look after their affairs and are trusted to do exactly that but yet at the time of their most pressing need HMRC is denying us the ability to do just that.”

The difference between the SEISS and the CJRS for furloughed employees is that the employer must provide the calculations of pay for the furlough employees, and hence accountants and payroll professionals have to be involved. The SEISS does not require the taxpayer to make any calculations, so perhaps this swung the pendulum towards speed and against agent access.

Elaine Clark, founder of CheapAccounting.co.uk, praised HMRC, saying it has delivered the system ahead of schedule, which allows time for taxpayers to set up a government gateway account if needed.

Clark also pointed out that the declarations required as part of the SEISS application, of intention to trade and whether the trade has been adversely affected by the coronavirus, can only be made the individual taxpayer. 

HMRC has advised that agents should not use their clients’ credentials to apply for grants on behalf of clients and that doing so may trigger HMRC fraud checks and delay payment of the grant.

There will be a telephone-based SEISS grant application service for the digitally excluded to use, but HMRC has not released any details of that yet.

Replies (72)

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By AS44NG
05th May 2020 18:14

Good! The claims for JRS have taken up much of our time recently. I cannot see how we would cope without a couple of hundred SEISS claims too.

Thankfully this passes the responsibility onto the client to tick that box to say the claim is correct. I'm not sorry that we won't be doing that for some clients.

Thanks (9)
Replying to AS44NG:
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By seitler
05th May 2020 22:52

But you will still have to answer endless questions like , what is my UTR, why don't I qualify for the grant, is £x grant correct etc etc all for no reward. At least if agents did the claim we could charge a nominal sum to reflect our time input

Thanks (13)
Replying to seitler:
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By Southwestbeancounter
06th May 2020 10:05

seitler wrote:

But you will still have to answer endless questions like , what is my UTR, why don't I qualify for the grant, is £x grant correct etc etc all for no reward. At least if agents did the claim we could charge a nominal sum to reflect our time input


Yes agreed, although I'm more concerned about giving a good service at the moment than lining my pockets and I feel I am letting clients down through no fault of my own by not being able to take this stress away from them.

Also we would have a record of what the client was likely to receive ready for when we do the 2020/21 SATRS!

Thanks (4)
Replying to AS44NG:
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By Smokoe Joe
06th May 2020 10:13

All good except for this little nugget in the guidance

"Your tax agent or adviser cannot make the claim for you. You must make the claim yourself. If you use an agent you should contact them if you need any help or support "

I would rather make the claim, send them a declaration to sign etc. first and have a tangible task to bill, rather than the constant disruption of phone calls asking for help!

Thanks (5)
Replying to Smokoe Joe:
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By Open all hours
06th May 2020 21:38

Completely agree. I understand agents are allowed to help in appeals though.
Just feels like a game that HMRC are playing, let them do JRS but lock them out of SEISS, clients puzzled by the inconsistency.

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By seitler
05th May 2020 22:59

I also can't help thinking this is a disingenuous attempt to force taxpayers to set up on line accounts something hmrc have been after for years and exclude agents in the process, something they also always wanted to do

Thanks (29)
Replying to seitler:
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By silverghost
06th May 2020 09:18

seitler wrote:

I also can't help thinking this is a disingenuous attempt to force taxpayers to set up on line accounts something hmrc have been after for years and exclude agents in the process, something they also always wanted to do

Agreed. As for HMRC saying that agents should not use their client credentials - wind your neck in. I have already had clients ask me to set up GG accounts and to make the claim for them. I am not going to refuse to do so.

Thanks (6)
Replying to silverghost:
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By IanClark
06th May 2020 11:01

Hi Silverghost, if HMRC are using any form of IP address checker, then making multiple registrations from the same IP address may cause you problems.

Thanks (1)
Replying to IanClark:
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By OrmeGoat
06th May 2020 13:06

What happens if I use Bitdefender's VPN?

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Replying to silverghost:
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By Open all hours
06th May 2020 21:42

Clients mother phoned. Both of them are dyslexic. Talked her through the process and we got to the password. ‘I’m useless at these, can’t do them’. So I gave her a password to use. Right or wrong? No time to care at present. HMRC seem to forget that agents are appointed with good reason.

Thanks (1)
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By SXGuy
06th May 2020 08:45

As we know SEISS is open to abuse. As an example I switched from SE to Ltd last year and had some cross over on my 18/19 SATR. According to the checker I'm eligible. I know I'm not since I never continued to trade as SE in 19/20. But someone else may decide to claim anyway.

Thanks (2)
Replying to SXGuy:
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By Rammstein1
06th May 2020 09:14

Yes but when they ask you if you are trading in 20/21 and you say no, your claim will fail. Only if you fraudulently answer yes would your claim go through.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Rammstein1:
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By Southwestbeancounter
06th May 2020 10:08

Rammstein1 wrote:

Yes but when they ask you if you are trading in 20/21 and you say no, your claim will fail. Only if you fraudulently answer yes would your claim go through.


Does it actually ask those questions that are effectively the criteria for being eligible though? I haven't seen as far as the questioning phase as I am not eligible as I run a ltd co.
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Replying to Southwestbeancounter:
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By SXGuy
06th May 2020 14:34

Am I trading in 20/21 yes. Am I trading as self employed, no.

I guess it comes down to the wording really.

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
06th May 2020 09:45

The SEISS application system is proving to be a lively topic in our weekly Q&A webinar here:
https://www.crowdcast.io/e/AWEBLiveCoronavirusQ&A/6

It's live now as I'm typing (about 30mins in), but you can watch procedings afterwards by registering for the same link.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Benneyworth just said it would have taken another two months to build in an agent access mechanism that HMRC could fraud-proof. In the end the design and development team decided to go ahead this way to get the money out as fast as possible.

HMRC apologised to its Administrative Burdens Advisory Board and said there was no other way they could do it to help companies before June, she said.

Thanks (1)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
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By SDGREEN
06th May 2020 09:52

Yet they were able to quickly add an agent access mechanism in the JRS scheme without any issue....

Thanks (8)
Replying to SDGREEN:
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By Southwestbeancounter
06th May 2020 10:09

Agreed! I'm sorry but that's a red herring in my opinion!

Thanks (0)
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By Casterbridge Hardy LLP
06th May 2020 09:50

Shoot me somebody - please!

Thanks (1)
Replying to Casterbridge Hardy LLP:
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By Southwestbeancounter
06th May 2020 10:10

Me too whilst you're at it!! ;-)

Thanks (0)
Replying to Southwestbeancounter:
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By Casterbridge Hardy LLP
11th May 2020 10:15

Ho Ho!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Casterbridge Hardy LLP:
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By Robert Hurn
06th May 2020 11:48

I can only do so from 2 metres away, not sure I am that good a shot

Thanks (3)
Replying to bobhurn:
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By Casterbridge Hardy LLP
11th May 2020 10:16

I will settle for that!

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By [email protected]
06th May 2020 09:54

I have contacted all my self-employed clients and given them the eligibility link and suggested to them that they check that they still have their Gateway ID and password and if they don't then to get one set up sooner rather than later so that they can make the claim on 15th.

Thanks (1)
Replying to [email protected]:
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By sallyrichardson
06th May 2020 10:01

We have done the same - underlining in red
that we can't do the claim for them. But the HMRC have said there will be an alternative way to claim if they don't have a GG account. Some of them are banking on this!

Thanks (2)
Replying to sallyrichardson:
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By [email protected]
06th May 2020 11:19

They have made the application process easier if they follow the link - all that is needed is a passport or driving licence to confirm identity - the is no wait for an activation code

Thanks (1)
Replying to [email protected]:
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By Southwestbeancounter
06th May 2020 13:22

carol-AT-du4accounts.com wrote:

They have made the application process easier if they follow the link - all that is needed is a passport or driving licence to confirm identity - the is no wait for an activation code


Yes, except that I had a client yesterday who doesn't have a photo-card driving licence, doesn't have an up-to-date passport nor a credit card account so she fell at the first hurdle!
Thanks (1)
Replying to [email protected]:
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By [email protected]
07th May 2020 17:18

Hi Carol, Is it really possible with Driving licence, most will not have P60, payslip, or British passport, so driving licence would be handy, but some months ago driving licence was not an approved way to identify for GGateway account?

Thanks (0)
Replying to [email protected]:
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By [email protected]
07th May 2020 17:18

Hi Carol, Is it really possible with Driving licence, most will not have P60, payslip, or British passport, so driving licence would be handy, but some months ago driving licence was not an approved way to identify for GGateway account?

Thanks (0)
Replying to [email protected]:
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By stephenleonard
06th May 2020 10:29

ICAEW have advised not to set up a Gateway account until you are ready to make the claim as it will make it easier
https://www.icaew.com/insights/tax-news/2020/may-2020/lack-of-agent-acce...

Thanks (1)
Replying to [email protected]:
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By BayTree
06th May 2020 10:29

Yesterday, ICAEW advised against creating GG accounts in advance;

....."The Tax Faculty advises against individuals setting up a new government gateway ID in advance of making an application, but instead doing so as the first step in the application process. This will ensure that the correct type of credentials are set up and avoids the need to wait for an authorisation code in the post (that this requirement is suspended for those that set up government gateway credentials as part of the SEISS service)."...

Has this advice now been retracted?

Thanks (1)
Replying to [email protected]:
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By OrmeGoat
06th May 2020 13:08

The first one I asked sent me her UTR

Thanks (0)
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By sallyrichardson
06th May 2020 10:00

I have already had clients sending me photos of their pc screen with the url cut off of the picture showing a question they need to answer which is totally out of context, asking me what they need to do? With no background as to how they were contacted, what part of the gov.uk website they are on, or even if it is the real gov.uk website. This is not going to be fun....

Thanks (3)
Replying to sallyrichardson:
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By Southwestbeancounter
06th May 2020 10:12

Well yes, there are going to be plenty of fraudsters cashing in on this - maybe HMRC don't care about that side of fraud against the poor taxpayers then?!!

We almost need another thread showing any fraudulent websites or text messages we come across so everyone is kept informed - but if we had agent access we wouldn't need this would we?!!!

Thanks (1)
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By Fred Hoad
06th May 2020 10:00

The talk of taxpayers themselves having to confirm the claim hence them being the ones to sign in doesn't really ring true. Most agents submit the various clients returns from their bespoke software on the basis that they hold an approval from the client. How is this any more or less an authority and responsibility than making a claim under the SEISS?

And as for the talk about development time to achieve functionality, you could file this under the same category as other government processes at this time where raising valid questions is treated like treason. 100k tests anyone? *cough cough*

Thanks (5)
Replying to Fred Hoad:
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By Southwestbeancounter
06th May 2020 10:16

Agreed! I personally don't 'buy' it - HMRC have had it in for us for years despite us virtually running the tax system for them!

Thanks (6)
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By BirdnCo
06th May 2020 10:04

I have had some clients asking which Government Gateway I.D. should I have or apply for, Self Assessment for Self Employed, Personal Tax Account or any of the others, such as VAT, PAYE etc.
Any thoughts anyone?

Thanks (0)
Replying to BirdnCo:
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By stephenleonard
06th May 2020 10:33

see here from ICAEW - they are advising it will create the correct account at the time of application
https://www.icaew.com/insights/tax-news/2020/may-2020/lack-of-agent-acce...

Thanks (2)
Replying to BirdnCo: