HMRC’s work has been at the centre of the government’s response to COVID-19. Whether that’s by administering the support schemes, changing our operational approach or through more than 80 other policy changes.
Providing this support has been resource intensive and this has had implications for our day-to-day operations. We have strived to maintain our levels of customer service but acknowledge that we have not been able to offer the level of service that we would like, particularly on the Agent Dedicated Line.
Relaunch of Agent Dedicated Line
We are pleased that we are now able to trial a relaunch of the Agent Dedicated Line. To help us provide priority access for agents, we are expecting agents to use digital services where these are available and to get information from clients where this is possible.
We are trialling a prioritised support service (Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm on 0300 200 3311) from the 14th June 2021 and we expect calls to this line to be answered within 10 minutes. It will help us to maintain the service if agents spread calls throughout the day rather than phoning as soon as the helpline opens. We’ll keep your representative bodies informed about how we perform against this target.
We want to remind you of the following digital services
- Progress chasing – our ‘Where's My Reply? tool for tax agents - tells you when you will get a reply on PAYE and SA returns and correspondence and we have recently done some work to make it more reliable. We are currently looking to add other taxes and will tell you as soon as we have done so. You can contact the helpline if the expected reply date has passed.
- Report a phishing email, phone call or scam text.
- Report a death.
- Request an SA302 (for mortgage applications).
- Your clients can get information on their pay and tax and employment histories in their Personal Tax Account. We are working on developing services to allow agents to access this information – see below.
Where you can get the information you need from your client, that’s what we expect you to do.
Where there are digital services, we expect you to use them. We won’t be offering phone support for these services, other than when you need support to get you back online.
We will continue to develop more digital services for agents, with a view to materially reducing your need to phone us. Examples of some that we are currently working on are:
- Forms processing. We are looking at ways to process claims more efficiently. We’re working with our IT colleagues on how we can use scanning technology to help us improve the processing of R40 (PPI interest taxed at source) and other high demand forms.
- Agent authorisation processes. Longer term, we are looking at ways to streamline agent client authorisation processes while retaining security and GDPR requirements, developing smoother access to client information.
- Agent Income Record Viewer. HMRC has developed an Agent Income Record Viewer service, which provides agents with their client’s pay and tax details, employment history and tax code details. It involves a digital handshake which needs to be completed by your client; this is to protect your client’s security and comply with our GDPR obligations.
This tool is still in private beta testing and so is limited to a small number of agents but we can now extend the service to a further 200 agents. If you would like to be part of this trial, please contact Denise Beat. We hope to be able to extend this service to all agents in the future.
Security upgrades coming in June
At HMRC we constantly review all our security practices. This month, we’re introducing two security changes to protect customer data and reduce the risk of identity fraud.
Neither change affects the use of our services for agents – in particular, access to the agent services account and agent online services is not affected - but agents may want to let clients know about these.
Extra login security step for some businesses and organisations
We’re making Multi Factor Authentication (MFA, sometimes known as 2-Step Verification) a requirement for all businesses and organisations (other than agents) using Government Gateway to access HMRC services online. Individual users, as well as many businesses and organisations, already have MFA on their Government Gateway account so will be unaffected. For business and organisations that don’t currently receive an access code by text, voice call or to an authenticator app when they login, MFA is quick and easy to set up and will help keep their data secure.
We will begin gradually adding this extra step for businesses and organisations that don’t already have it from 15 June. They don’t need to do anything until we ask them to add their device when they login.
Many businesses and organisations need to delegate account access to members of their staff to handle aspects of their tax. This can still be done with MFA. Access credentials should not be shared. Instead, business users can utilise their administrator and assistant functionality - in their Business Tax Account - to create additional users for individuals requiring access to their account. Each of these credentials will then have its own MFA.
HMRC customers who have a problem when setting up MFA should use the ‘Get help’ or ‘Is there anything wrong with this page’ link in the online service they are using. Customers who have MFA but need it resetting should contact our Online Services Helpdesk.
Identity verification required to access Online Tax Registration Service (OTRS) and HMRC short forms (KANA forms)
Customers accessing OTRS or our short forms online from 15 June will be asked to verify their identity. We will ask for two forms of identification and customers can choose from a range of options.
This change will apply to individuals, business and organisations. It won’t affect the way agents access these services.
If you are advising any small businesses looking to improve their security practices, they can find helpful information in the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) Small Business Guide, and can also sign up to the NCSC’s new monthly Small Organisations Newsletter.
Thank you for patience during the pandemic. We will continue to develop these services and keep you updated.