HMRC are changing their online advice pages and letters to clients on agent authorisation clarifying what agents can and cannot do when they are working via the Online Agent Authorisation system. They stress the need for clients to check their tax returns before allowing their agents to submit them on their behalf.

The changes will affect three of HMRC's GOV.UK pages  on agent authorisation:

  • Authorise a tax agent (64-8).
  • Authorise an agent for taxes that use the digital handshake.
  • Appoint someone to deal with HMRC on your behalf.

They make it clearer to taxpayers what their agent can do on their behalf once they authorise them, which will include, but is not limited to:

  • Registering the client for Self Assessment.
  • Submitting their Self Assessment tax return to HMRC.
  • Discussing current and previous tax returns with HMRC.
  • Submitting claims for tax relief to HMRC.
  • Providing bank details to HMRC when a repayment is due..
  • Finalising the client's overall tax position.

When HMRC writes to a client confirming an agent authorisation request, the letter will now confirm that the authorisation gives HMRC the ability to exchange information with the agent. It will also clearly tell the client, and this is also now reiterated on all of the above GOV.UK pages:

  • That they are responsible for their own tax affairs, even if they authorise someone to act on their behalf.
  • If their agent submits their Self Assessment return to HMRC, they must check that the return is correct and confirm this to their agent before it is submitted.

This is a timely reminder to agents that, no matter how close the filing deadline is, they should not submit a client's tax return until they have confirmation from the client, in writing, that they have reviewed their tax return and are happy that it is correct and complete.

Useful guides on this topic

Tax Agents: HMRC's Standard for Agents
HMRC's 'Standard for agents' is a non-statutory standard, aimed at all tax agents, although largely to most tax agents who are not members of any of the professional tax and accountancy bodies. 

Penalties: Accountants, Advisers & Agents
What tax-related penalties can apply to accountants, advisers and agents?

Grounds for Appeal: Reasonable excuse
What is considered to be a 'reasonable excuse' when a taxpayer makes an appeal against a tax compliance failure? 

Source: CIOT Forthcoming changes to HMRC’s agent authorisation materials

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