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Recognising the future relationship between agents and HMRC

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: General, News and Updates

Happy New Year, the start of the New Year is a busy period for agents and for us in HMRC, with the Self Assessment deadline at the end of the month, so 2013 already feels like a distant memory. But, just before the seasonal break, I chaired a meeting that we refer to as ‘the protocol group’. And I think the group and the work it does will be of interest to you.

Your first thought is probably along the lines of, “what is the protocol group?” Well, it’s made up of agent professional body representatives and HMRC colleagues from across different areas of the department. The group looks at the Charter commitment and how this needs to operate as we become more digitally based.

HMRC will be offering customers more and more online and mobile services and tools. More customers will be able to self-serve and may choose to do more for themselves, with or without an agent. Already the authorisation around who does what, and who is copied into what, can be complex in the tri-partite relationship between HMRC, agent and tax-payer. New ways of working may result in more tailored and bespoke relationships and digital technology will help us deliver this.

It is important that all parties understand what they can expect, for example when will we send something (like a reminder) directly to the customer, when will we deal directly with an authorised agent and who gets copied into what. We want transparent and effective relationships but also to avoid deluging agents with information of no value to them.

The group discussed how currently one size does not fit all and certainly won’t in the future with delivery through multiple channels. We agreed we wanted any protocol to be short and flexible. But it may need to cover some difference of approach in different circumstances and some exceptions. Together we will look at how we can understand these complexities and develop proposals through workshops in February and March focusing on

  • normal daily business with HMRC in a digital world
  • encouraging voluntary compliance
  • HMRC compliance interventions
  • debt.

 We’ll keep you updated on progress.

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  1. Comment by Gerry Sims posted on

    Can I just say how much the use of the word 'customers' riles my clients. To them it implies the ability to shop elsewhere !

    • Replies to Gerry Sims>

      Comment by ruthbulteel posted on

      Thank you for your comment. You might be interested in a similar discussion in our ‘Introduction’ blog where we explained why we use this term.

      • Replies to ruthbulteel>

        Comment by Roger Ladbrook posted on

        1) I cannot believe that any fully trained Inspector of Taxes would endorse HMRC's use of the word. Judge Barbara Mosedale (TC02910) surely spoke for everyone with an ounce of commonsense when she said:-
        "I note in passing that all the reports mentioned below refer to HMRC’s
        “customers”. While this is a regrettable misuse of language by HMRC as it implies
        people have a choice whether to interact with HMRC and that therefore the payment
        of taxes is voluntary, nevertheless it is clear that references to “customers” are meant
        to be references to taxpayers."

        2) Similarly, when you say "We want transparent and effective relationships but also to avoid deluging agents with information of no value to them" I cannot accept that an agent would not want to receive a copy of ANY communication from HMRC to a taxpayer client.
        We want transparent and effective relationships but also to avoid deluging agents with information of no value to them.

        • Replies to Roger Ladbrook>

          Comment by Paul Shearon posted on

          I do not think it was a discussion - just HMRC New Speak

  2. Comment by John Jenkins posted on

    To me the future relationship should be that agents have access to all clients tax affairs (obviously with clients authority). There is nothing that HMRC now do administratively that agents can't do. This will allow HMRC to spend more time on collection and investigation, which really is what they are supposed to do. We are in the age of self-assessment so let us issue code numbers (we actually have all the information to make a correct tax coding) let us do all the problem solving that seem to take HMRC ages to do due to lack of staff and funding. Let's really switch things around and have a proper relationship not a them and us which is increasing.

    • Replies to John Jenkins>

      Comment by ruthbulteel posted on

      Thank you for your comment John. We agree that agents should be able to do more for their clients online, without HMRC involvement.

      Agent Online Self Serve is part of the Government’s ‘digital by default’ agenda. This involves designing faster, slicker digital services to meet customers’ and agents’ needs.

      As you suggest, this will also cut the cost of administering the UK tax system – for all of us. We’ll start by introducing new online registration and authorisation processes. Once they’re in place, agents will be able to access more digital services, as they are introduced.

      Look out for more information on the HMRC website. We’ll also post regular updates about the new services on this blog.