Monday, November 29, 2010

Does the taxman value the tax agent or not?

Back in September HMRC announced that they would stop sending copies of certain forms to tax agents (accountants and tax advisers). We were told that:
"HMRC is sorry if these changes are unwelcome but has tried to look for savings in areas where there will be minimal impact on customers."
The professional bodies complained through the usual channels. ICAS, for example, stated that:
"some of these cost-cutting measures are misguided, and is particularly concerned that they have been introduced with immediate effect and without prior consultation."
They also suggested that all communications from HMRC should be marked on the outside of the envelope with wording such as ‘If you have a tax agent, please pass this to them immediately’, but it is not yet clear whether this will be done.

A related discussion on the ICAEW Tax Faculty news website revealed the anger and frustration at HMRC's unilateral action here. It's expected to lead to extra work for tax agents, extra hassle and confusion for their clients and EXTRA WORK for HMRC dealing with requests for copy paperwork that was previously sent out automatically. A counter-productive and apparently ill-thought out move it would seem.

But this change was not an isolated one. Recently Taxation magazine ran a related article entitled: Eroding the Adviser. In it, Alex Byrne lamented HMRC’s recent practice of copying clients into letters to the agent. Such an approach undermines the adviser and causes problems of which HMRC again seem unaware.

Regular readers of this blog and my articles in the professional press will know I offer balanced and independent views. I am not an ardent Revenue basher. Indeed, I frequently find myself defending their actions and trying to explain why media criticism is misguided. I know too that often the professional bodies will be engaged in quiet diplomacy. They perceive this is more likely to secure positive changes than public tub-thumping. I suspect that's what is happening at the moment.

In the meantime, what's your view? Do you think HMRC is showing that they value the role of the tax agent, or not?


  1. I don't think this process says anything about HMRC's attitude to agents - it's just about internal processes.

    HMRC want to run electronically as far as possible and this seems to be just part of that process.

    Inconvenient, I agree - but that's the modern world.

  2. once again an example of HMRC's lack of a competitor as well as their misunderstanding of the costs incurred by tax agents and other businesses