A likely outcome is that certain paid agents (and possibly also some in the voluntary sector) will have direct access to their clients’ records on HMRC’s computer systems in order, for example, to change a PAYE code number or make entries on a self-assessment record.
This facility could work well for taxpayers with agents, but how will it affect HMRC’s services for unrepresented individuals? For example, will it enable HMRC to answer the telephone promptly and deal with correspondence more swiftly?
And if not, what alternatives will there be for the unrepresented? Will they be able to nominate themselves as agents for themselves, so as to get access to their own records and make changes to their PAYE codes? We doubt it.
If not, will HMRC have rules to stop a father acting as agent for a daughter, or one partner in a relationship acting for the other? And what impact will that have on the many people who try to help friends or members of their own family with their tax affairs? Will HMRC require them to show a certain level of competence in taxation before they are allowed to do so?
Is it right that a customer of HMRC who can afford to pay an agent gets a streamlined service from HMRC, but those who cannot afford one must rely on whatever service HMRC can offer?
LITRG’s purpose is to give a voice to the unrepresented who cannot afford to pay for an adviser. So over the next few months, we shall try to ensure that HMRC’s low-income customers do not get a second-class service as a result of any changes that are to be made.
Please read the consultation document Establishing the future relationship between the tax agent community and HMRC and let us know what you think.
Contact: Kelly Sizer (please use form at http://www.litrg.org.uk/ContactUs)