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Self Assessment: HMRC's 10 top tips for agents

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14th Jan 2010
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HMRC's Brian Redford, deputy director of intermediaries and external communication for the Business Customer Unit, highlights the some helpful hints for agents under pressure in January.

1. Filing for clients and when to be authorised
If you are just filing a return on behalf of a client and use third party software, you don’t need to send us an authority to disclose on form 64-8 beforehand. Make sure you have all the necessary details and you can submit it online. Although this doesn’t provide a receipt from HMRC, most third party packages provide confirmation that a return has been submitted.

If you need to do anything more complex, such as make changes to your client’s information or speak to us on their behalf, you’ll need to be authorised by your client. This can be done using form 64-8, either on paper or online. Paper forms should be sent to the Central Agent Authorisation Team (CAAT) in Longbenton. Where clients are already set up for SA, CAAT aims to update their records within 24 hours of receiving paper 64-8s. Please note that it can take up to a further 72 hours for this to be updated on the SA portal for you to access all electronic services, although you’ll be able to discuss your clients affairs with us straightaway. If you use the online authorisation system, we will send a PIN number to your client that they will need to pass on to you to activate the process and add the client to your list. This should generally arrive within 7 days. Bearing this in mind, you should allow as much time as possible to be able to file on time for your clients.

2. Make sure you have your clients’ details
To make things go as smoothly as possible, make sure you have all relevant details to hand, including your clients’ Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number and, where appropriate, National Insurance number (NINO). In a small number of cases, a new client may not be able to provide you with their UTR. We would normally disclose this in writing but may exceptionally be able to do so more quickly in order for you to submit their return by 31 January. You should call one of the Agent Dedicated Lines , who will confirm what information they can provide and how. Clients can have their National Insurance number confirmed in writing by contacting the National Insurance Helpline 0845 915 7006 which is open 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday.

3. Need to file now?
HMRC expects to receive more than three quarters of all online returns submitted in January in the second half of the month. Get returns in early where possible to avoid the busiest period. If your client hasn’t been sent a notice to file, we won’t be expecting them to submit a return by 31 January, but payment of their liabilities will need to be made. Make sure they have registered for SA and we will tell you when they need to file by.

4. 31 January is the deadline for paying, not just filing
As well as filing their tax return by 31 January, clients also need to pay any liabilities by this date. We accept payment by direct debit, internet/telephone banking, debit or credit card over the Internet BillPay (note that credit cards involve a transaction fee). Clients can also pay using Bank Giro via their bank or building society, at the Post Office, by taking out a Budget Payment Plan or by using the pre-printed payslip we provided to them and sending payment to HMRC, Bradford, BD98 1YY.

If a client doesn’t yet have a UTR but wishes to make a payment for the 2008-09 tax year, download and complete form SA361. The words 'New Customer' should be written in the SA reference box. There is guidance on the form about where to send your cheque. HMRC will initially hold the payment in a suspense account. It will take some time to notify a UTR and allocate payment to the new customer account.

5. Stay secure
Keep your online credentials safe and make sure your computer security systems are up to date. If you notice any unusual activity on your clients’ tax accounts, contact our Online Services Helpdesk immediately on 0845 6055 999. Also be alert for “phishing” emails: HMRC does not send notifications of a tax rebate via email, nor request that you update your security certification. You should not divulge your online User ID and password to anyone - any suspicious activity should be reported to HMRC immediately.

For more information, please see our web pages.

6. UTRs for partnerships
All partnerships and their members should use the correct UTR when filing partnership returns - unlike last year, substitute UTRs must not be used. We are aware of some issues around partnerships where a UTR is not available, in which case you should do the following:

  1. Individual return (SA100) - UK resident individuals with income from overseas partnerships (i.e. those not trading, managed or controlled in the UK) should enter their own UTR on the partnership page of the return.
  2. Partnership Return (SA800) - non-UK resident investors in Investment Partnerships should see our guidance previously issued.
  3. Partnership Return (SA800) - a paper return should be made where a partnership has not been able to obtain a UTR for a non-UK resident partner and cannot therefore file online.

In these circumstances, as long as a paper return is delivered on or before 31 January 2010, HMRC will accept that the taxpayer had a reasonable excuse for failing to file a paper return by the normal 31 October deadline. A reasonable excuse claim should accompany the paper return.

7. Help us to help you
If you need to contact us for advice, use the Agent Dedicated Lines. These are designed to answer agents’ more technical queries. Experienced advisers have access to further support for more complex issues.

You can also do a lot online. For example for clients in Self Assessment, you can see clients’ statements, view their tax liabilities and the payments they've made, and make claims to reduce their payments on account.

If your query is more complex, you will often find the answer on the HMRC website:

8. Keep an eye on our website
We’ll keep our web pages updated with any news that will affect your ability to file in time for 31 January. You can also sign up for our bi-monthly summary of news and developments, Agent Update.

9. Remember the new deadlines for reclaiming tax
If you have a self assessment client who has a claim for the year 2004-2005, we need it by 31 March 2010. And they must make a claim for the 2005-06 year by 5 April 2010. For further information visit our website here.

10. Bear with us
We expect to receive around 3.5 million tax returns during the peak filing period and we will process most by the middle of February. All repayments will be subject to verification checks and those selected for further manual review will take longer. We will pay all legitimate claims as quickly as possible.

If you experience problems submitting returns online, check to see if there is a known issue or a workaround on our Service Issues web page.

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