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Hi, I’m Jenny Cowles.

I work as a Deputy Director in HMRC, leading the Agent Strategy, Stakeholder and Engagement Team.

If you are a tax agent authorised to act on behalf of our customers I hope we’ll be able to tell you some interesting and helpful snippets across the spectrum of different things you have, or choose, to deal with.

More about my team:

  • the ‘strategy’ bit develops the way we want to work with agents, dealing with things like how we are improving the ways you can interact with us - for example, using digital channels to access self-services on behalf of your clients;
  • the ‘stakeholders’ bit creates the communications to agents in the ‘tax agents and advisors’ pages of our website, occasional emails, briefings to HMRC/Professional Bodies, consultative groups and so on;
  • the largest part of my team is involved in ‘engagement’. This includes supporting local Working Together meetings, driving progress on service delivery improvements in response to issues that agents identify (through Working Together and the Joint Initiative), providing toolkits that advise on the common mistakes in tax returns and offering education - for example, sessions explaining the new Real Time Information in PAYE.

What am I, and colleagues in the team, going to blog about and why?

This blog is to help us work better with you.

Over the next couple of years, HMRC is introducing new processes for customers and their agents that use digital technology and enable everyone to 'self-serve'.

There’s lots of joint work going on; we involve and consult agents and their representatives in many different ways. But the more formal ways in which we communicate – minutes of meetings and Agent Updates – can be slow and limited.

We therefore hope to keep you better updated through regular blogging and it will give us a more immediate way of getting your views.

Our blog will focus on:

  • joint HMRC and agent consultative meetings
  • the rollout of HMRC's Tax Agent Strategy (more about that in later blogs)
  • improvements to service delivery through joint working
  • services available for agents.

This is a completely new channel for HMRC, so please bear with us.

But my first question is: what do you want to hear about from us?

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  1. Comment by A.M. Mumford posted on

    How to correct errors in salary figures in Real Time Information, so as to amend cumulative totals of tax and NI to the correct figures.

    • Replies to A.M. Mumford>

      Comment by jennycowles posted on

      Thank you for telling us what you’d like to see in our blog.

      Here is the relevant link to corrections and amendments -

      The high-level advice is:
      • correct the error by using revised year to date figures on your next regular FPS - this is often the easiest way to handle the correction; or
      • show the adjustment by submitting an additional FPS for the pay period for the employee(s) the error relates to

      HMRC has published a series of scenarios containing advice from employers, payroll professionals and agents on how to address some of the more common issues that you might come across when reporting PAYE information in real time:

  2. Comment by Crawford Herald posted on

    I receive HMRC News by RSS feed on a very regular basis plus releases from the professional bodies..
    If your blog is going to add something to the equation I will be happy to hear from you, otherwise not. I will, however, be interested to know what you have in mind.

  3. Comment by Sian Jovetic posted on

    It would be good if HMRC were able to process CSI repayments to Ltd Companies within a specified time frame.. I have one company who waited a year and a half, and another, who has been partly repaid after nine months with no explanation as to why the remainder has been withheld, I have been asked to send in again copies of bank statements and deduction statements to support the claim. HMRC had "lost" the first batch I sent in. I have a lever arch file full of correspondence regarding the claim for repayment. All obviously prepared in my own time as I am unable to invoice the client for this work. This is just one client. If I had more CIS Ltd companies I would probably go out of business dealing with reclaims. We seriously need to work together to address this as the current system is unacceptable.

    • Replies to Sian Jovetic>

      Comment by jennycowles posted on


      Thanks for your comment. We are currently working closely with agents through a number of workshops, to improve and streamline the end-to-end CIS repayment process. Initiatives have been implemented to improve the efficiency of the process with the aim of reducing delays in making repayments for 2014/15 and to improve communications. If you have any specific issues with repayment claims you can contact the Agent Account Manager Service directly.

      We have been already working to improve the process and this year we asked agents to make sure that they were authorised to act for their clients for PAYE before we could discuss the claim. For more information on this see our Top Tips.

  4. Comment by Paul Shearon posted on

    Please stop cal;ling taxpayers customers.

    • Replies to Paul Shearon>

      Comment by jennycowles posted on

      Paul, Thank you for your comment. HMRC deals with a range of taxes, reliefs, national insurance contributions, child benefit, tax credits and other duties so not everyone we deal with is a taxpayer. We think that the word “customer” best encompasses the wide variety of people we deal with.

      • Replies to jennycowles>

        Comment by Paul Shearon posted on

        I am sorry but everyone in this country is a taxpayer, VAT? Customers have a choice taxpayers do not.

      • Replies to jennycowles>

        Comment by Cathy Blacklock posted on

        As 1 of my elderly clients pointed out, "customer" implies a measure of choice, something you don't get when it comes to paying tax.

  5. Comment by D A AUSTIN posted on


  6. Comment by Jennifer Adams posted on

    There is really no need for a 'blog' - although anything that brings HMRC into the 21st Century is welcome. Everything anyone needs to know about the practical problems tax and accounting practitioners encounter on a daily basis on behalf of their clients can be found on the website

    Articles are written specifically covering problems encountered and there is a section headed 'Any Answers' where readers are asked whether they have met similar problems and how they were dealt with - if they were of course! It makes for fascinating reading and should be compulsory reading for anyone who works at HMRC.

    A M Mumford - the answer to your problem is to be found here on the accountingweb website:

  7. Comment by Dan Martin posted on

    It would be useful if you added social share buttons.

  8. Comment by Scrivena posted on

    How can we contact Ex Pat Unit when telpehone number listed defaults to an voice message that tells you you are unable to leave a message - 'Goodbye'!

    • Replies to Scrivena>

      Comment by ruthbulteel posted on

      We’re sorry you’ve had problems getting through to the Ex Pat Unit. There’s a temporary technical issue with this contact number that we’re working hard to resolve with our IT partners.

      Until it’s fixed, we’re asking agents to send a fax to 03000 533121. Please mark it for the attention of the telephone team - and someone will phone you back. This number is only for queries about Ex Pat clients.

      • Replies to ruthbulteel>

        Comment by Eric Longley posted on

        How long has this technical issue been a problem and when were HMRC first aware of it? My concern is that all to often we are told there are technical issues as though that were sufficient explanation in itself. What temporary alternatives have been considered, if any.

        • Replies to Eric Longley>

          Comment by ruthbulteel posted on

          Thanks for your comment.
          We are sorry that you weren’t able to leave a message on the Ex-pat Unit’s answerphone, but we have now rectified this. The automated message also explains that all lines are busy, and explaining their opening hours. We are looking at how we can make more improvements to the service and will update you when this happens.

  9. Comment by R Millar posted on

    Can we have a wish list for the new year?

    (1) When will Agents be able to view client's paye (important) and vat liabilities (not so important) and payments made, from within the Agent Area? - This info is already available online to the clients that have their own Gateway I.D. so the info is sat waiting to be added or tagged onto our systems.

    (2) How about getting rid of the 5 on the end of the personal allowance - it serves no useful purposes and creates silly little self assessment tax liabilities that would not exist if the coded personal allowance matched the actual personal allowance.

    • Replies to R Millar>

      Comment by ruthbulteel posted on

      In our Blog of 19 December we explained about our Tax Agent Strategy, which will include new digital services to grant your wish . More information will follow in future blogs.
      We want to make digital information available to agents as soon as possible - but the timescale for this is linked to the cross-government work on Identity Assurance (IDA) described in the blog. We believe IDA will provide the security and assurance to protect confidentiality and help protect against cyber crime.

  10. Comment by Jonathan Vowles posted on

    Hi Jenny
    Any initiative like this is only useful if you have the power to deal with the stuff we as practising accountants complain about. So do you?

    Secondly, I waste loads of time and effort speaking to monkeys rather than organ grinders. Otherwise known as telephoning HMRC only to get a call centre where someone will take my number and email it to someone in a regional office. I can quite appreciate that the call centre approach works really well for you when dealing with the end user, the taxpayer. I am sure that the majority of queries are dealt with by the call centre staff. But from my perspective it doesn't work at all for me as a chartered accountant - remember that the reason I am ringing HMRC is that I have already looked at a bit of legislation or an HMRC manual and therefore I am looking to speak with someone who can deal with what is probably too complex for your call centre staff. It would be more helpful to have a specialist Agent call centre where the phones are answered by the organ grinder rather than the monkey. I have wasted a lot of time trying to speak to people, particular regarding Corporation Tax issues. So from you position, what do your statistics say? what percentage of calls from Agents are dealt with by your call centre staff and what percentage are forwarded to be replied to by a more senior member of staff?

    • Replies to Jonathan Vowles>

      Comment by ruthbulteel posted on

      Thanks for responding to our post. We offer a number of bespoke services for agents, including the Agent’s Issue Resolution Service, which you might wish to register for. It’s simple to do – you can find out more here -
      Once you have submitted your client-specific issue, one of our Agent Account Managers (AAMs) will get in touch, and keep you informed on progress.

      As well as the AAM service, you can also call the Agent Dedicated Line to resolve customer specific queries:

      0300 200 3311
      Open 8.00am - 8.00pm Monday to Friday
      8.00am - 4.00pm on Saturday.

      There are three tiers of technical response available, and calls are progressed through those, if your query cannot be dealt with at Tier 1. Technically trained Tier 3 advisors also have access to other technical specialists in Head Office if the query is exceptionally detailed.

      A review in August 2013 found that out of 89,717 calls from agents only 3.5 per cent needed to be escalated to Tier 2, and 0.5 per cent to Tier 3.

      • Replies to ruthbulteel>

        Comment by Eric Longley posted on

        Very interesting. What was the average and the longest time it took for an AAM to get in touch once the Agent had left the query with HMRC?

  11. Comment by Fadden & Co. posted on

    Two things:

    (1) It would be useful to be able to see all clients' PAYE coding notices online - not just those currently on SA. For clients who have a UTR but are not SA, or have no UTR it is very frustrating and leads to more calls to the call centre - i.e. unavoidable contact / failure demand. Will this be sorted once the new agent digital services come onstream?

    (I almost wonder if it might be cheaper to just reintroduce paper agent copies for these cases if nothing's going to be done for a while.)

    (2) Please could agents be copied in / notified on more VAT matters such as surcharge notices? I know there's an internal distinction between VAT/PAYE/CIS where the 'customer' acts as a tax collector, and other taxes which accrue to the taxpayer themselves, but to clients it's all just 'tax'. I recall Rebecca Benneyworth et al saying this has been brought up at senior Working Together groups - has there been any progress?


    • Replies to Fadden & Co.>

      Comment by ruthbulteel posted on

      Thank you for your comment.

      HMRC’s Digital Strategy involves redesigning manual processes and adopting modern technology to modernise our services, enabling people to deal with all their tax affairs in a single place online. We’re creating a new, multichannel digital tax platform for individuals, agents and businesses that will operate across all HMRC’s lines of business and tax regimes.

      Agent Online Self Serve (AOSS) will bring a new digital agents’ registration service (previously known as applying for a Unique Agent Reference) which will enable agents, both paid and unpaid, to deal with HMRC on a range of taxes. It will allow agents to access and view authorised client data and services in one place, through a personalised cross-tax dashboard or webpage.

      Agents will be able to tailor the information they see about their clients to fit their needs or business model. If you are acting for a client on more than one type of tax, you will no longer have to navigate multiple systems to access each service you need.

      We are reviewing how and when we contact you about client matters, including VAT and PAYE, and are holding workshops to develop an HMRC protocol. Two very useful workshops have already been held and a third is scheduled for April. Once we have studied the results, we hope to provide a summary on this blog.