Government proposes tax agent registration

A REGISTRATION process for tax agents could be in place by 2015 according to new proposals by HM Revenue & Customs.

The consultation to establish the future of the relationship between tax agents and HMRC opened today and will run until 16 September. There are two main proposals: agent “self serve”, an enrolment process that will allow agents to submit information on behalf of their clients more efficiently; and processes to help HMRC develop its relationships with individual agents to provide relevant support.

HMRC said that currently professional tax agents are subject to the same security processes as an individual taxpayer, which proves costly. Although most tax returns are submitted electronically, “in the absence of self-serve capability, agents currently transmit information to HMRC by letter or telephone call” in the same way individuals do. The self-authorisation would allow “trusted” agents to act on behalf of their clients through determining PAYE codes and managing payments and liabilities.

The consultation said that an enrolment process would benefit agents as: it would allow the development of “shared secrets’ for security purposes”, reducing the time spent establishing their credentials; agent records could be easily “cleansed”, ensuring they reflect the agent’s client base; the provision of a designated bank account would mean details would not need to be submitted on each tax return; and the number of transactions that could be completed by self-serve would be increased.

This process will not replace the self-regulation role taken by the professional institutes, it said. However, “there could be value in all tax agent firms operating in the UK being expected to meet or exceed a minimum level of competence and professional conduct”.

In the consultation, HMRC also admitted that “at some periods and in some areas performance has not been good enough and this has added to costs for the customer and also for HMRC”.

A separate consultation is planned for later this year to deal with agents that act dishonestly.


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