It is important to keep a record of your actions in case you are later subject to some kind of fine or penalty for a compliance failure. After spending many days on trying to become compliant for Making Tax Digital for VAT I have decided to retain an online record of my efforts to be tax compliant.

By Nichola Ross Martin CTA FCA (Fellow) (all views expressed here are mine and mine alone!).

I have added a lot of what I have found into the help pages in our Making Tax Digital zone.

As recent feedback shows I am not alone....

Trying to sign up for Making Tax Digital for VAT: my personal timeline

How was it for you?

22 October 2019 Only 1.25 hours on HMRC's helpline. Client 1 has now been re-authorised on the ASA and we must now wait 72 hours to see if it has worked. Found that somehow another client has fallen off the ASA. Client 2 has not been authorised: HMRC and I both gave up, and I was told to click on 'get help with this page'. I lost the will to continue the call too. I did suggest that maybe we should apply from exemption.

11 October 2019. After five days of waiting for software support they say that they will phone me. Goody. I am (desperately) trying to remain enthusiastic about all this. Got to keep smiling at all costs and I am genuinely looking forward to knowing what on earth has gone wrong.

On a plus point many of you say that you have set up successfully. I wonder if we made the wrong software decisions.

4 October 2019 7pm. Would rather be not writing this but we have had another fail. The cloud software claimed that the 31/08/2019 return had been filed. I decided that I really should re-check this before I left for the day. It turns out that this is incorrect. It has not been filed by us or the client. This is all too weird. The client has been also removed from our new Agent Services Account. Happily, HMRC have left the old agent services account intact and we filed for the client using that. Will try and re-sign up next week.

7 September: the introduction of the CIS VAT reverse charge has been postponed to 1 October 2020.

5 September: reporting errors

I was reviewing how some software is reporting the VAT margin scheme. Note that the software's (Quickbooks) workaround does not match HMRC's guidance in VAT Notice 708/1. You end up understating Box 6 even though your VAT is correctly calculated.

3 September: Browser issues

A possible solution to browser issues, suggested by Is: you can clear your browsing history from your browser. This will clear stored cookies. Chrome, the most popular browser provides the option to clear cookies of 'all time'. This might take some time to do. If it gets stuck, then uninstall Chrome. re-start your PC and then reinstall it. 

Still not solved our agent authorisation: lost the will to phone the helpline again. Saving that for next week and the next VAT stagger.

2 September: Evidence of a 'light touch'

We have heard from a couple of businesses who did not realise that they needed to change their VAT and filed the June quarter under the old system. HMRC seem to be taking a light touch and have written to them to remind them of the new rules.

6 August 2019: we have an unknown problem: there is no solution

Still unable to make agent authorisation work for two clients. I did receive a call back from HMRC, they still have no idea why. It seems obvious that something needs resetting at HMRC's end but no one seems to know what. It is the 'silly season', so perhaps the IT department are on holiday too.

Trying to file a MTD return

30 July 2019: the deadline is approaching.

We seem to need to reilink our software with HMRC in order to file new VAT returns,

I start the process but two factor authentication is not working: I am not receiving the text with the code.

I click the link: Help with extra security and dial the number given: Telephone: 0300 200 3600

I wait. I get through, 'Our advisers can't help you on this line, dial 0300 200 3701'

I dial and I wait...

After 13 minutes I get through to an adviser who tries to pass me to someone else who can deal with the issue. We try to go over security checks, I login to the company HMRC business account and for some reason I cannot get to see the last submitted return. 'Page not found'. I can't answer the security questions.

The line goes dead. It is probably the bad weather.

I call up the helpline again. After 18 minutes on hold I get through to someone else. Whilst waiting I go to a different company HMRC business account and I can see all its old returns. 

The adviser cannot help me either, but during the call I find that the company I am trying to link has not authorised us. As I have all the details (it is my company) I then try to authorise us. I email a colleague so we are using a different brower and PC. We accept the authorisation and then the screen asks us to check our response.

It says something along the lines of 'Allow agent to file your returns using software - 'NO'' so we try to edit it to say 'YES'. It won't let us do it. We cannot get authorised.

The adviser does not know what to do, she has never heard of this problem. She says 'Click the link - get help with this page'. I say 'No, I am not bothering to do that, they never get back to you. I do not wish to be late filing our VAT'.

HMRC's adviser tells me that there will be a two week delay in getting back to us. I say that I am not having this and I need to speak to someone who can assist me. She tries to pass me to another adviser, there is no one free. Instead she books me a call on 2nd August. I can't wait.

She assures me that I will not get a late filing penalty, I wonder how many other people have had that re-assurance and I bet the system that levies penalties is automatic and so I would still have to appeal.

In the meantime, I decide 'to break' the system. I am not going to mess around any more. I don't have the time. I go into our software, probably mess up all the settings and file the VAT return logged in as the client. It is against the rules of Professional Coduct in Taxation but as all HMRC people on helplines agree, we are allowed to do this in an emergency.

Troubleshooting the VAT report!

18 July 2019 Late claims and Publishing returns VAT reporting

  • Why are late claims appearing in Xero’s VAT report?
  • What on earth does Publishing mean? It's not an accounting or tax term.

I have discovered that I have not always been using Xero correctly, this means that some of what it calls ‘Late Claims’ are not actually late at all, they had been adjusted in previous periods.

I can see from online queries that I am not the only person who does not understand some of the terminology used by my software supplier. I have now got the bottom of some of these.

I used Xero to calculate VAT under pre MTD for VAT. I stopped trying to use it to transmit VAT returns to HMRC when I was late with returns on a couple of quarters because they did not transmit. Once I received a surcharge notification I decided that it was safer to use HMRC’s portal and input my figures manually.

It now transpires that when I ran my VAT return reports I also should have been ‘Publishing’ them in Xero.

I wonder how many other people were doing exactly what I did and were unaware of this.

Under the old (pre MTD for VAT) reporting for VAT, once you have run your VAT return you see a green button that says “File VAT Now…”

When you click that you see pop-up which says ‘File VAT return’  ‘File now with HMRC’ and you then have to enter your Gateway ID, password and VAT number.

I did not complete this step because I was not filing with HMRC.

It transpires, that where is says ‘File now with HMRC’ there is a tick box to untick!

Oops. I did not realise…

If I had known to unticked that box, the pop-up then changes to ‘File VAT’

Had I completed this step I would have 'Published' my return in Xero.

Bit late to have discovered this now, however its highly relevant.

My MTD for VAT report is telling me that I have ‘Late claims’. I know that I probably don’t, so where do these come from?

I seems that these are historic late claims that I had already adjusted in my actual VAT returns. The problem is that when I ran the VAT report without Publishing it Xero did not realise.

I thought that once I had run and printed a report that was what published it.

The solution?

I am going to go back and see if I can publish the old returns and hopefully get rid of the Late Claims. My Late Claims are tiny, in fact so small that they are immaterial. I am just doing this to get it right, as who wants to start off wrong?

If you have Late Claims showing in your VAT report and you have accidently, like me, failed to realise that you should have published your previous returns its worth checking your figures.

Agent trying to move client into new MTD via our software

18 July 2019 - HMRC's system is very sensitive as to who is connected for MVD

Had a long phone call with the software company.

I was signing in all clients using our ASA, so far so good. However we have an ex-client who is still on our subscription and he could not understand how to file (he has a new accountant but the new accountant was late with his VAT) so my colleague helpfully said he would file his VAT return for him (don't ask! this is NOT supposed to happen). Anyway, my colleague then entered the ex-client's own HMRC login to file his return via our subscription. This has apparently disabled our ASA login and I now need to set it up again.

There are clearly lots and lots of problems with using different HMRC logins. At least I know what happened this time.

17 July 2019 - going round in circles again.

The story so far...on the phone to HMRC I managed to go into our cloud software, select MtdforVAT and then by entering my new ASA user name and password, going through the saga of the mobile phone code, the client is now in MTD.

I am off the phone to HMRC and I do the same process for the next client...It did not work.  'Wait 72 hours it said'.

It still says that ten days later. 

I then go back to the first client to check it is OK and its now says 'You need to reauthorise with HMRC'. 

I re-do the sign up again. 

I then go to our company, which I also signed up via a phone call with HMRC (see Agent authorising a new client, it was a drama) and guess what? 

We are not signed up! AARGH!! The wretched system has reset itself! An hour on HMRC's helpline wasted. Who dunnit this time? Software supplier or HMRC?

If I did not keep this record of events I would by now think that I was going mad. I have emailed the software supplier...

Agent authorising a new client

Top Tip: don't let a client try this at home. Bring them into your office with a laptop and phone and if they have them their Government Gateway login.

3 July 2019

The story so far...

  • HMRC have been sending me (as an agent) email messages to enter an authorisation code for my new client.
  • Client has not received any code. 
  • Luckily I am the client (this is one of our businesses). In despair, I ask myself 'What do I do now?'
  • I phone HMRC's VAT line. Its 14.30pm.

After the usual wait and recordings, I speak to someone who helps me submit a VAT return for one client via MTD, for some reason that is very painful, possibly due to the software. Another story for another day. One down. 

On to trying to authorise our company as a new VAT client.

I tried to authorise our firm via our company's Business Tax Account.

It seems that this process is broken as that did nothing at all!

Via the helpline I work out 'How to get authorised'

1. I have login to my new ASA. This takes a lot of attempts as even using different browsers throws up error messages. Very, very odd.

You are not authorised to view this page

I finally get in to the ASA by using a different browser (back to Chrome, I am sorry Google, I was blaming you before but I think that the problem is more likely that HMRC's systems think they are under a denial of service attack of something).

The ASA asks me this sequence of questions:

What type of client do you need authorisation from?

If you need authorisation to deal with both your client's business and personal tax affairs, you need to ask for these separately.

An individual or sole trader

A company or partnership

Do you want to submit this client's VAT returns through software?



I need authorisation for something else


Enter your client's details

This will help us match their details against information we hold.

VAT registration number This is 9 numbers, for example, 123456789.

VAT registration date For example, DayMonthYear

Is this the client you want authorisation from?

[your company name]

Yes - I want to ask this client for authorisation

No - I need to start over again

What you need to do next

  1. Copy this link and email it to your client.You only need to send it to them once. They can use this link to access your authorisation requests for their business taxes.
  2. Link [removed for obvious security reasons]
  3. Ask your client to go to the link to accept your authorisation request.
  4. Make sure your client responds by 16 July 2019, or your link will expire.
  5. Tell your client they will need the Government Gateway user ID and password they use for their business tax affairs. If your client does not have a user ID, they can create one when they go to your link.

We will send an email to [my email] if your client accepts or declines your request.


I paste the link into a browser.

First result 

Hmmm...can’t reach this page


On HMRC's advice, I email the link to my client (i.e. to me)

I click on the link and it takes me to HMRC in a new browser window

Appoint [Agent name] to deal with HMRC for you

Use this service to allow [Agent name] to help you manage your tax affairs.

So we can confirm who you are, you will need to sign in with the Government Gateway user ID and password you use for your business tax affairs. You can create a user ID now if you do not have one.

If you appoint [Agent name], this will cancel any consent you gave to someone else to act for you for the same service.


I click on the Continue button.

I am asked to login as the business - it enter my business Gov't Gateway ID and Password.

It sends a message to my mobile which is annoying.

I enter the code and...

Sorry, you haven't been authorised to proceed.

Try again with an Individual Government Gateway ID.


It appears that my brower is once again befuddled. The solution?

I move off my desktop PC and onto my laptop and click the link in the email email on the laptop. 

Sorry, there is a problem with the service

Try again later.

We may not have saved your responses.

You can check who can deal with HMRC for you.

If you have any questions, use the 'get help with this page' link at the bottom of each page in the service


 Blast. I am most happily still on the helpline with HMRC, nearly 15.30 now, so they can check what is happening their end. There is no sign of the authorisation.

I click the link.

Approval complete

[Agent Name] can now deal with HMRC for you

What this means

[Agent Name] is now confirmed as your authorised tax agent for submitting your VAT returns through software.

What you can do next

Go to manage who can deal with HMRC for you to:

  • check who you currently allow to deal with HMRC
  • remove your consent if you want to do so
Finish and sign out


 All done, and now, by writing this I know what to do for the next one. 

Top Tip: don't let a client try this at home. Bring them into your office with a laptop and phone.


Registering as a business


27 June 2019

The ICAEW have published an update after discussion with HMRC as to what the new services do and won't let you do yet. Your feedback here has made its way to HMRC.

Top tips (as already suggested here by some of you but now confirmed):

  • Print a copy of your VAT registration certificate before you apply for MTD for VAT, you will lose it in the new system.
  • Agents cannot change their email addresses on their new ASA (its a security issue apparently) :((
  • If HMRC is not letting you login to your old agent account and ASA at the same time, try using a different browers for each.

20 June 2019

[spoiler alert I do not manage to appoint myself as an agent and my ASA is not working]

This time I remember not to use Chrome, not that this matters...

Have received letters from HMRC to our own two companies which confirm that both are now registered.  That's great as I was worried that one of the registrations did not work. Neither are on my Agent Services Account (ASA), in fact nothing is on my ASA... Now I need to work out how to make ourselves agents for our companies. 

I login to HMRC as one of our businesses; my Business account now sports a new MTD VAT area. As noted in the reader comments below its no longer showing our VAT registration certificate. 

I go to Manage Account (a process of elimination, click on everything and see what happens).

Manage Account

Your account


Great, I select Add or change accountants

The only option that lets me Add an agent, is 'Submit VAT returns'. That is a bit weird as I want to be my whole agent and not just a submitter.

I add my new Agent ID [firmname-number]

and I get

"There's a problem

Correct the following error.

Ho hum...that is mega annoying. It took months to set up the ASA and I have not got a clue what this message means.

I logout

I sign into my new ASA.

I try to 'Ask a client to authorise you', but I cannot as my VAT registration certificate is not in my Business tax account anymore and I can't remember when we registered (my bad, one of the commenters below warned of this, I stupidly did not retrieve the details in time).

Worse still my ASA says I have not authorised anyone and it wants me to link my clients again. Again?

I am too tired for this. I can only take so much and I have other fee paying work to do.


17 June we have posted up the new comments added.

Thank you folks for your comments. This really useful and I have passed the link to this to two of tax bodies to take it up with HMRC. Please keep commenting and thank you for the tips particularly the one about losing copies of VAT reg certificates once clients migrate. I will copy those to file.

Latest comments from readers:

 D wrote on 14 June:

This is so, so useful. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I've now managed to sign up a client who was having a terrible time trying to sign up. Slight complication in that I was using the old online VAT services to file for her, but now she's using Sage, I hope it will accept her own Gov't Gateway ID in her software to file in future...

R wrote on 14 June: 

After signing up a client to MTD using my MTD new Agent Services Account, HMRC have stopped access to my VAT clients on the old Government Gateway, although I'm still mandated to file VAT returns for them. An activation code for both myself and the new client is currently in the pipeline in circulation but not received yet some 2 weeks later. Presently I need appropriate commercial software to file for my non-MTD VAT clients. Meanwhile, all my VAT clients still need reinstating to my old GG a/c. HMRC will not tell me how what when or why this is all happening for. However 2 days ago, HMRC contacted us at 7.21 am by email. Impressive early morning start if nothing else here then. They say: 

"Hello [name deleted for privacy]

Thank you for your message. 

I have assigned it to a colleague, who will reply as soon as possible."


I guess this is all par for the course?

D wrote on 14 June:

Use the the incognito or private browsing mode.

N wrote on 14 June:

Once signed up to MTD, the original HMRC agent portal for the client...seem to lose the VAT certificate and ability to deregister for VAT if idea how to access do either now?

D wrote on 14 June:

The problems with different browsers etc. have been known by competent web designers for years. The functions required are simple and it beggars belief that they cannot make it work. A few minutes testing with Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Explorer will show the issues. 

K wrote on 14 June:

Not entirely sure how to resolve this other than to 'fluff' the Digital Record Keeping requirements.
Client maintained good manual records for years based on a print-out from one side of the business and then added in store details to arrive at the 9 boxes on the VAT Return...we are thinking about merely creating a spreadsheet and using bridging software to make future returns. All very unsatisfactory but the alternatives appear to be paying substantial amounts for suitable accountancy software that can capture both sides of the business correctly. 
Yet another expensive Government IT project is in the ditch. One wonders how much this is really costing SMEs.


12 June 2019: 10am Trying to sign up for clients

[spoiler alert: use two browsers if you want to use both your ASA and old agent services account at once, and gmail accounts are apparently not verified by HMRC]

Just read the ICAEW's Taxline, which reminds me that under the terms of Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation, Helpsheet A which says 

"Except in exceptional circumstances, a member will explicitly file in their capacity as agent. A member is advised to use the facilities provided for agents and to avoid knowing or using the client’s personal access credentials."

The situation is this: if I cannot manage to sign us up how do I ensure that the clients sign up? Do I have to go round and mentor them to teach them the sign up process? What if it does not work? 

This time I use Edge brower, I go to the sign up page

To sign up your client

I login using my new Agent Services Account

Than as asked I enter their VAT number, their business type, their UTR, their postcode. I recommend that you keep your old agent services account open on another screen, different browser and so you have their details at hand, or otherwise your tax software.

Then I get to the screen where HMRC send me an email to verify my address.

No email from HMRC.

Ho hum. I guess I am having to use a private email again.

In passing, I have also noticed that when HMRC do contact you to confirm that you application is reveived that they do not tell you your business name. I now realise that I have signed up one of our own companies, but which one..? Damn.

I go back to my client application and put in a private email address. It asks me to confirm, so I click confirm but this time it does not want to send a verification email. Wow, that's interesting. It wants to send a verification if I use my @rossmartin.etc email but not if I use an @gmail 

I click on the option for HMRC to communicate by post only. This should be less confusing for my client.

'We have received your client's information' Sign up another client?

That one took only 33 minutes. Thank heavens we only have a few VAT clients.

I will try again in a day or  so. Its easier now I know to use the Edge browser. Must try and get hold of the helpline and find why it does not like to verify our work email.


10 June 2019: trying to sign up a client on their behalf 

Approx 11.45am to 12.36am

[spoiler alert: another fail, I have just realised after writing this that I was doing this is Chrome. Durrh. Silly me. I will try tomorrow on a different browser]

Navigated to:

Clicked on: Sign up your own business.

Do you have accounting software for managing your VAT records?


Is your software ready to submit your Making Tax Digital for VAT Returns directly to HMRC?


What is your email address?

Added mine

Screen delay. I go away and check my inboxes for nothing, by the time I return the screen has changed. I can confirm my email from the screen.

We proceed through the questions, what type of business? its a partnership.

Enter UTR

Bad Request

For request 'POST /vat-through-software/sign-up/partnership-utr' [No CSRF token found in body]


I press 'back' on my browser

You can't use this service yet

To use this service, you need to set up an agent services account.

Sign out

????? I was registering as a business.

I will clear the browser and try again tomorrow.


6 June 2019 10am-11am

Ist attempt

Navigated to:

Clicked on:

Sign up your client’s business.

(I did not want to do this it was a different screen to last time so I thought I would have a go).

Asked to login, which I did with usual agent credentials

HMRC: “You can't use this service yet

To use this service, you need to set up an agent services account.”


2nd attempt

Navigated to:

Clicked on: Sign up your own business.

HMRC: Do you have accounting software for managing your VAT records?


HMRC : Is your software ready to submit your Making Tax Digital for VAT Returns directly to HMRC?



“You can't use this service yet

To use this service, you need to set up an agent services account.”


3rd Attempt

Googled 'How to sign up for Making VAT Digital' - my aim was to see if I could find better links

Found this page, which I have not visited

Clicked on

Find out how to get ready for MTD for VAT if you’re a business.

Sent to:

Making Tax Digital for VAT as a business: step by step

I clicked on:

Sign up for Making Tax Digital for VAT at least 72 hours before your VAT Return is due, or 7 days before if you pay by direct debit.

Check if there are any problems with this service.

HMRC: Full service available.

Clicked on link: Sign up to Making Tax Digital for VAT

HMRC You can't use this service yet

To use this service, you need to set up an agent services account.

I clicked on: Sign in to Making Tax Digital for VAT online.

HMRC: Sorry - agents can't use this sign in page yet

Sign in to HMRC online services as an agent.

I now realise that it thinks I am logged in. Maybe there is something wrong with the cookies.


4th Attempt

I go to HMRC’s normal login page

I click Sign in

HMRC: Sorry - agents can't use this sign in page yet

Sign in to HMRC online services as an agent.

I click on the above link, and lo’ and behold I am in my old agent account.

I log out

HMRC: You've signed out


Use the link in your email invite to sign in again.

??? What email?


5th Attempt: Different browser ‘Edge’

Navigated to:

Clicked on: Sign up your own business.

Do you have accounting software for managing your VAT records?


Is your software ready to submit your Making Tax Digital for VAT Returns directly to HMRC?


Went through ‘security’ – HMR sent my landline a code.

Agreed to Direct Debits

HMRC: what’s the business email address?

HMRC new message “We will email you to confirm you've signed up your business to use software to submit its VAT Returns (this can take up to 72 hours).”

HMRC: Check your email address

???? Maybe it does not like my email.

I change email, and submit a different email.

HMRC: Check your email address

I realise that I am now so stressed that I have missed clicking a link 'continue'. I click it this apparently 'checks my email address'.

HMRC: We've sent an email to xxxx Click on the link in the email to verify your email address.

This is where I got to last week. No email received from HMRC.


6th Attempt

I go back and click on change your email address.

I try a gmail address

11am. HMRC sends a link to my gmail. 

The link does not work in my Chrome browser (gmail automatically opens in Chrome).

I cut and paste it back into Edge.

HMRC: How should we contact the business? 

Email or letter?

They now have the wrong email for me so i have no choice but to ask for post.


What happens next

We will send you an email within 72 hours to confirm. Do not submit a VAT Return during this time.

  1. You must use software that works with Making Tax Digital for VAT (opens in a new window or tab).
  2. You must only use the new way of submitting your VAT Return through software with Making Tax Digital for VAT. Do not use the old way of sending your VAT Return.
  3. Check that your software is connected to send VAT Returns to HMRC directly. You might need to sign in with your Government Gateway user ID.
  4. Use the software to record all your sales and purchases.
  5. After April, keep your business details up to date using HMRC services (this is also called business tax account). Do not use the VAT online services.

One down, six more to go.

I have at last managed to register one of our companies!

There may be an issue with cookies, HMRC's pages might not work on certain browsers and there is obviously a problem with our work email address.

Last week 

31 May 2019 12.36 – 13.00

1st attempt of the day

I do all that I tried on 30 May (and earlier) again to see if it will work. This time with just one company.

This time I login to HMRC as one of our companies and I go through all the initial login screen that first make me re-verfiy my email, set up a special word and then to my annoyance it sends an access code to my co-director's mobile phone. Once we have managed to get that I then login. I then follow the screens.

Once again I get the same problem - it again asks to verify my email but it does not send it to me. 

It says ‘Check your junk folder. If it's not there we can send it again. If we send your email again, any previous links will stop working.

Nothing happens.

I check my email on my phone, on Outlook and on webmail.

I check my spam, my junk.

I try again and again and again.

After about FIVE attempts, I give up.

I report the error and then I also report feedback ‘What do I think of the online service? I reply ‘Very bad’.

The really, really annoying part is that my email was verified when I logged in to HMRC. Clearly an ongoing issue.

Another 30 mins wasted time.

Reader comments (you can email them in)

L wrote on 31/5/2019   It’s not just me that’s struggled with the MTD for VAT then?! I’ve gone round and round in circles and then finally a page that I’ve been on half a dozen times (at least) previously will decide to let me get a step further…. And then it’s back to the start with the next company! God only knows what actually filing the returns will be like….

C wrote on 31/5/2019 We are having the same problem, it is good to know that a tax expert has this as well!

T wrote on 31/5/2019 Thanks you for sharing the Digital VAT issues with HMRC , 

We have also had the same issues since the last 5 weeks and getting nowhere on the phone as their staff say they do not know how to help to get codes. They claim already sent these but we do not get them in the post or through email. They also can't confirm a date or the practice address these were sent to. Very frustrating, and worrying as late filing and payment looming for clients and so time wasting for us as we cannot recover this time costs.

Not a professional service from HMRC as ill planned and poorly executed and incomplete set up from HMRC end. Shockingly poor and sub standard customer service. Many colleagues are in this same situation from 6 weeks ago.

Please suggest to Associations/Institutes to set up web complaint form which goes to HMRC and records complaints to hold HMRC accountable, else this will progressively worsen and impact on our health in the future with additional centralisation at Stratford and Hugh office closures.

L wrote 31/5/2019  Definitely not just you! It didn’t help that when I tried getting ahead of the game at the start of April it wouldn’t let me because there were payments of vat due by direct debit in c 2 weeks time!!! Talk about frustrating. Not fit for purpose as usual.

30 May 2019 Approx 14.00 - 16.00

I find and click on link

And then

I answer the questions:

  • Do I have accounting software?
  • Is the software ready?
  • Do I have more than one VAT reg business?
  • What is my business type?

I enter my company registration number

I confirm my company name

I agree to direct debit conditions

I confirm my business email

An activation is sent to that email.

Nothing happens

I did not get an email

It says ‘Check your junk folder. If it's not there we can send it again. If we send your email again, any previous links will stop working.

Nothing happens.

I check my email on my phone, on Outlook and on webmail.

I check my spam, my junk.

I try this for both of my companies

  • R Ltd
  • T Ltd

Both times I receive no email.

I report the error and then I also report feedback ‘What do I think of the online service? I reply ‘Very bad’.

I tried to do all the above  earlier in the month however I was not sensible enough to keep a record of what went wrong, however it was the same as what happened on the 30 May 2019

Signing up as an agent

6 July 2019 - another fail

I've called client in. Its Saturday, as there was no time to see them in the week due to the time this MTD sign up is taking. There is no way that this is going to be possible for income tax if the systems are this flakey. The aim today being to show them the 'magic process' of their new online accounting system.


After filing their VAT return under the old system directly onto HMRC's system (which was of course, easy). We now attempt to swtich them to MTD for VAT via their new accounting system.

Login to the accounting system.

Click on the change to MTD for VAT button.

Go through the process of login to our ASA, run and find phone for text link.

Enter code, hit continue

Error message....

Needs Attention

Unable to connect to HMRC

HMRC will confirm connection by email when access has been granted. Please come back later and try again. If after 72 hours you are still not connected contact HMRC.


Great, just great.

We all laugh, in despair. Client goes off.

I guess I will go off and enjoy the weekend and try again, sometime next week.

3 July 2019


Needs Attention

Unable to connect to HMRC

HMRC will confirm connection by email when access has been granted. Please come back later and try again. If after 72 hours you are still not connected contact HMRC.

ought I had not signed up two clients with 31/5 quarters as we are submitting their returns this week (or hope to) and it turns out that I did sign up one of them. Of course, the ASA does not tell you who is signed up.

I go into my old agent account with HMRC and the ones who are signed up can be spotted that way: you can no longer access their VAT registration certificates! 

The screen on the ones signed up says:

Important information

VAT Information

To view further information please follow the appropriate link below:


and guess what? The really silly bit...there is no link below.

OK. If in doubt try a different browser.

In a different browser, and I can get into my old agent services account without login, which is a first or maybe things just work as they can and it recognises my IP address. In a different browser I see no links below the above message either.

Confused as to what information I can be possibly missing at this stage...I give up and phone the VAT helpline. It has possibly some of the most annoying automated messages I have ever heard. As if going to is going to help me when is the problem.

It is confirmed that a 31/5 client is signed up and what on earth to do now. I want to submit a VAT return. To be continued...


20 June 2019

Checked my Agent Services Account today. No sign of the client business that I signed up on the 12 June. I wonder what is happening.

I signed up our two businesses for MTD and these do not seem to be linked to the ASA either. 

31 May 2019

I try again to login and I can now login as the link is working.

I cannot link to clients until they or I on their behalf activate themselves for MTD.

I try to see what I can do and find that I cannot do anything.

I leave the page.


Reader comments (you can email them in)

From J: 31/5/2019  Loging into your ASA. Make sure you use the following At least that’s what I have found. Can’t help with the rest. No one can!


30 May 2019

I try to login to my Agent Services Account (ASA)

I could not find a login screen.

I followed the details on

I checked that there were no issues with the service by following this link it says ' Full service available'

I go back and click the link to login.

It asks me for my details.

It then says that I already have an ASA!

Durrrrh of course I do, I want to login and not make a new one.

Earlier: Jan/Feb

I set up the ASA earlier in the year following two or maybe three calls to HMRC's VAT helpline. I experienced all sorts of made problems which seem to be do with glitches on the system and links going to the wrong places.

I found in February that my ASA is not displaying correctly. The VAT helpline people told me to wait and see.

MTD errors

How stupid can one be? When is a mistake the result of carelessness?  These are Nichola's mistakes that have occurred in trying to be MTD compliant. Software error or operator error or maybe a combination of the two. 

Note, until this point, I have had an unblemished track record of VAT filings. There is one plus point I do now know how to correct an error, see Errors: VAT how to correct.

1. Posted client's output VAT backwards.
The aim was to find a new way for the client to enter their till sales into the cloud accounting software instead of keeping their till totals on Excel, and thus avoiding having any digital linking issues in a year's time.


At present we post the VAT receipts by journal and we want to avoid this if we are to truly embrace the full elements of software!

I set up a sales invoice template which allowed me to enter their daily takings as invoices and automatically gives them the correct VAT and sales codes. Their credit card and cheque receipts could then be 'reconciled' on block from the automatic bank feed (although being sales of very small items line by line matching is not worth the effort). The flaw in the process is that an adjustment has to be made to contra cash takings to cash payments by journal, as you cannot set up an autofeed for cash.

I set it up on a spreadsheet first so I hade the correct end result and could double check my cash takings and VAT totals. I put it all into the software and I then I have no idea what went wrong.

The VAT return showed the correct totals for takings and VAT (boxes 1 and 6) for the period. I was pleased with the result. It was only after I pressed submit that I went on to do some more work on the accounts for the year end and then I noted a terrible problem. The output figures were negative! That software does not show credits as negatives. The problem was that I had been using two other types of software that day, both of which require you to enter credits as negatives. I have never seen negative sales on a VAT return and I can only say that I just saw the correct totals for each box and failed to notice the negatives.

HMRC and the client were understanding. I have lost confidence in my 'solution'. It was not easy and if I can't do it I doubt that I can teach a client to do it correctly. We are going back to journals.

2. Got stuck in the software

The software said “New report available”. This looked interesting so I clicked the link. It then took me to a page to “Try the new report”.

It took me to a Making Tax Digital for VAT sign up page. I did not wish to sign up to MTD as it was too early for compulsory sign up. I just wanted to file a VAT return. Unfortunately, I could find no way to get back to the original VAT report. I did not wish to sign up for MTD early, I had not reason to sign up to it to make the March return.

I then spent three hours online trying to work out how to get back to the old screen and the proper VAT report. I found that it is impossible to phone the software they do not have a helpline number. I found, via the use of the a forum that I could contact the vendor via the vendor's own forum. I did this. I did not get a response for 24 hours. I missed the VAT filing deadline through being trapped in the software.

It turned out, the next day, once I had had several ‘conversations’ with the help desk that there was a button to return to the original VAT report within the software however when viewed in my browser with a wide screen this is off the bottom of my screen and I did not realise it was there.

I did not realise that I was never actually seeing the bottom of the software's pages.

I have now swapped to a different browser and monitor and the link is visible. Once I found the link I was able to go back to the proper VAT report and file the VAT return.

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Your latest comments

We have posted these in a separate tab as they are so long, but read on they are really useful. 

16 Aug G writes

Getting clients authorised on our new Agent Services account remains impossible. it doesn’t work,. and we have been unable to identify if the problem is with my old Gateway account, or the new one, or the clients old one, or the clients new one.....or me......too many permutations and even HMRC don’t yet know how to solve this.

One lesson that others may benefit from is whatever you do, look for the links you need by starting from GOV.UK. Whatever you Google, if it finds a link that seems to be the correct one, but it is on HM Revenue and Customs Tax.Service.Gov.UK, then stop. Clear your browser cache and search GOV.UK If not you might find a further link to whatever you seek and the links might seem to work, but you have started from the wrong place - the old tax service platform.

There are, believe me, links on each platform that have the same name and (one assumes) purpose however they are no use to you on HMRC's old site. The links for MTD for VAT must start from the GOV.UK domain, even though the links have the same name and appear to be the same thing on both sites, they are not. Keep checking that you have not found a link to the wrong domain by checking that all the pages you are on are on

Meantime I have a few (Xero) clients who have signed up for this but for whom I can’t submit returns as I can’t get authorised, so I guess this is progress. One hopes that they will be able to log in and file the submission, and I am now thinking that I am happy to leave it like that.

I note there is "system maintenance" this weekend, Is this a euphemism for an upgrade?


8 Aug R writes

Had a similar problem with two clients to that of C on 24 July, but in Quickbooks.

QB reports that the return had been filed, but there was no acceptance acknowledgement, and HMRC repeatedly said it had not been filed and must be a software problem. Eventually it turned out that HMRC had not set up a vat return period for these clients. It was a matter of calling HMRC several times until eventually spoke to someone who recognised the issue. Having given HMRC the usual ID information I found that twice they were mistakenly looking into my own vat return instead of the client.


6 Aug S writes:

Submitted 3 returns this week using VT, an absolute doddle with no problems at all

Editorial feedback: you lucky, lucky blighter!!

30 July D writes - possible reason why we the link to authorise clients in not working in some cases

D's issues:

I'm trying to register some clients for mtd so that we can submit their vat returns. When we send some clients an authorisation link from our agent services account the client finds that ,when trying to log into their government gateway, that "the wrong type of account has been used and that they need to open/set up a new one for their personal tax affairs". Is this a common problem ? Why can't a business gateway login work ? 

D's possible identification of the issue

If ,using the ASA, you click on say partnership (rather than sole trade) it will generate a link that relates to a business government gateway rather than a personal government gateway account. If that makes sense. So the agent effectively needs to know if the client holds a personal or business government account and then chose whether to generate a personal (i.e. sole trade) or business (i.e. partnership even though it's a sole trade) government gateway. Still doesn't help if it's a ltd co. and the client only has a personal gateway a/c though.


24 July P comments

I've been trying to register for MTD as a sole trader on HMRC's website for two days. It wont let me complete. HMRC's helpline says keep trying, it could be the extra traffic on the site.


C Comments

I have finally successfully managed to link all my clients VAT accounts to my ASA and to Xero. At least I thought I had - that is all with the exception of one where in Xero under VAT Returns it was missing the current due VAT return for this client (qtr ending 30/6). Xero has the next one sitting there for qtr ending 30/9 ready and waiting but the current one! Xero upon investigation claim that HMRC have closed that period because the return has been submitted (how Xero got this information I do not know!). I rang HMRC as when I checked the clinet's business tax account the return was quite clearly still showing as outstanding and was not on either their account's list of submittied returns nor my agent VAT account submitted returns. Indeed the client's account correctly stated that no returns had been submitted under MTD. HMRC helpline confirmed that the return was not flagged as submitted and was indeed very clearly still outstanding. They said it MUST be a Xero software problem. I have bounced it back to Xero and waiting for a reply.


24 July B comments

One for information - it may not yet be of wide spreadspread awareness but HMRC had/have processing issues with the Friday and Monday MTD Sign Up matches. Consquently any agents expecting 'Your Client has been Signed Up for MTD' confirmation e-mails are not receiving them for Friday and Monday applications. No details provided as to when it will be corrected etc.

Just come off a call with HMRC as one of my sign-ups was in the Friday sign up batch


19 July M writes

Just to add to the ASA account stories. Having spent 55 minutes of the phone to HMRC to figure out how you can now inform HMRC of a client's change of address . The first agent kindly informed me that it should be done through my accounting software, and I had to spend 5 minutes to convince him that he didn't know what he was talking about and perhaps should check with someone who knew. Another 15 minutes on hold... and by miracle someone who knew. So you can't do this by signing in to your ASA account, you need to type in your browser, then search for "manage client". It will ask you for the client's VAT number and your ASA login details - There you are through a screen where you can change address/deregister etc... but viewing a VAT certificate (so date of registration) is no longer available in either your ASA or your old agent account.

8 July Update from R

A few last minute checks this morning revealed that the glitch with authorising/integrating my cloud accounting software with HMRC had a really easy work around:

  • I deleted my client's VAT number in the software's VAT settings and re-entered it. It then connected to HMRC!

This software was used to integrate the services to MTD originally 2 days ago now. I am at a loss to explain why this work around works as both VAT numbers are the same and so correct otherwise it would not have integrated in the first place?
My FreeAgent client has not managed to integrate that yet and thought it was filed, until I pointed out to them on 7 July it wasn't. So it's now late. I'm not a FreeAgent practitioner so that's all down to him, the bank & them. However, they're obviously still having glitchy type problems too. 

7 July Update from R

MTD Signing Clients Up / Software 'Houston! We have a problem at HMRC!'

Another update, so with the first MTD finishing line in sight nothing further could go wrong surely? WRONG! The old browser problem flared up.

My old ASA quickly linked to my cloud accounting software before I spotted it on integrating this with HMRC for obtaining, yet another, activation code for that procedure too! Activating software for MTD! Talk about security!? Wait 24 hours they said for confirmation. Nothing. No surprise as I used the wrong (old) ASA as the browser was too quick for me. Well it is the weekend.

Meanwhile, on the next day, the client and myself decide to seize the initiative anticipating a failure to integrate our MTD authorised software yesterday is all but a racing cert. Also due to the client's previously short hand attempt at tagging expense accounts to expense categories, (everything in general purchases), we decide for MTD VAT purposes to start again. A disaster recovery in process then. Clients eh? This from 1 March 2019 for the Q/E 31/05/19 return? Yes,good idea we agree. Additional fee too for me, lovely. Exporting & importing purchases and sales looks a dawdle. Done and retagged in a mornings work. Having succesfully integrated another 2 clients on the same software in a total time of 5-10 mins what could possibly go wrong now?

The correct ASA (the new one MTD), is linked up to the software for filing. Nothing happens after inputting the activation code. Wait 24 hours they say at HMRC despite the 2 other clients on the same cloud accounting software done in mins. 6 hours later- we're not ready for MTD with the disaster recovery client! Someone or something at HMRC must use their loaf here? They can't blame the browser this time.

Houston! We have a problem at HMRC! We will now have to file under the old VAT regime, (if it will allow us, I doubt it), for this and a FreeAgent client or not bother until that extra glitch is ironed out.

On the plus side certain clients are at least delighted about being MTD ready and having checked look good to go, Q/E 30 June 2019 subject to audit checks, tagging etc. Well, come just around this 7 August we will know all that for sure..I'm confident if not a little apprehensive here though.

However what about the unsuccessful integration problems at HMRC? 6 hours wait for going online? Well 24 hours they say but the other clients only took a matter of mins? See above.

The client that went down the RBoS FreeAgent route (what a misnomer of a name that is?), didn't think to activate the software and they have me somewhere on security access levels 1-8 for some reason as set by them for other users. Sounds a bit MI5. However I did note that it was accounting for VAT on a cash basis rather than the accruals..oops.. thanks to yes, more set up and taging issues, but not my problem.old boy, just the banks & client I'd say thinking they can make account holders 'Agent Free'.. I think I'll side step it, Another issue for another day, FreeAgent? Long and short of it I can't file for them under MTD at all. More ghosts in the HMRC machine? Anyway, I*'m off on (a well deserved) holiday now, laptop and browser in my bag. For HMRC I'm another problem for another day. Bliss!


1 July R has added an ipdate.

By pure chance alone of a kindly type, I received my Agents MTD activation code and specifically here for VAT but in future it, (probably), works for all other MTD registration purposes in tandem with my existing Agents Services a/c? Fingers crossed. It was sent to my client's old registered office address, which HMRC haven't yet updated yet for VAT purposes. Another saga for another time ongoing..

Anyway, it activated and I'm now able to register my clients for MTD via my new Agent Services account, but, my old/existing HMRC a/c no longer holds my Agents original VAT reference and all my clients go by a new reference for my practice. This reference being my client's personal VAT registration number which, its old address, the activation code was sent on too. Well, at least it works now!

I have registered 3 other clients successfully, and can file off MTD VAT returns and all other VAT registered clients using my old non-MTD agent services credentials for those with turnovers under £85K of course. That's all thankfully back online. However I'm annoyed. This is an awfully long winded 'glitchy' procedure that HMRC have put in place. I feel that I just got lucky receiving the activation code from a person forwarding same too.

Also, HMRC could have anticipated the browser problem, mine remembers my passwords etc this has no doubt caused me problems activating this service but doesn't explain everything which has happened to date either.

I also think that HMRC have to explain in simpler terms that agents are only registering their existing accounts for another MTD agents account, which will allow them to file off clients registering for MTD (VAT) returns with their agents new MTD reference and passwords as and when created by their agent on registration. It's all a bit over elaborate and confusing as usual from HMRC.

In the meantime I have sent them an email updaing them of this situation and asking too what I'm supposed to do with my practice being referenced for VAT under another clients VAT reference? Thus far nothing heard back and a good 10 days later. I guess the problem is solved for them, for now, and they have bigger ones with MTD elsewhere? No doubt. As I'm only a small practice.

1 July P writes:

I have been reading your blog regarding MTD. 

Having suffered similar problems with the new agents accounts (and previously queued for long time on the phone to migrate my clients over) we have just been informed that we now need to sign up all our clients from our old system individual. And not that this is relevant to me as my practise is quite small you are only allowed 250 clients per log in. 

We complained about having to remember all the different passwords and we were told to keep them on a spreadsheet.  Password  protection, apparently, is no longer an issue. 

I have made yet another complaint and await the generic civil servant reply.


21 June C writes

We submitted our own VAT for years. Now we have to employ an agent to submit our returns going forwards as we are having similar issues as others.
However, we need to change our address first so that we can receive the activation code to pass on to our agent.
We were advise that we could change the address online by filing in the online form for access to change details of our business. The form requested for the original post code on the registration certificate, amongst other information. Then HMRC confirmed that all the information were correct and an activation code would be sent by post in 7 days. What is the point in this new online process? considering the most common changes in VAT details are addresses! 
We changed the address once before via the old portal easily. Why HMRC created this new process which does not make sense and cause us small business so much grieve and resources. So typical...mending things which are not broken!

Nichola response: Thank you for your feedback, its very useful. The reason behind this is fraud prevention. Email has become unreliable, you certainly can't trust a phonecall and it is reasonably easy to create a government gateway and then in theory you can claim a refund for anything you can get into. You do have it slightly better than us agents, for some reason, which I cannot really fathom, expenditure on anything that helps us help HMRC is way down the department's budget. So far we can barely do anything on our new special agent services account (ASA). I am now forced to use a gmail account and cannot change it. 

21 June J writes: 

Having read your recent blog, I thought I would share something new I learnt today about my ASA. 

So, like you, I could not see any clients on my ASA that I have 'apparently' already linked. Worrying for all when nothing appears to happen! 

I decided to run through the "Ask a client to authorise you option" in my ASA for a VAT registered client of mine (who's already signed up for MTD). On doing this (and yes you need to know the clients VAT number and that all important 'Effective Date of Registration' (EDR) the HMRC response was "you are already authorised for this client" and, as usual, nothing appears to happen!

I then went back to my ASA and clicked on the "manage user access to your ASA" and clicked on the "client" tab. I then noticed the client I had just requested authorisation for is now appearing in my client list, or at least the clients VAT number was anyway - so I simply changed the client reference to the client name.

I've now done this for all my MTD clients (yes, rather tedious) and there all appearing in my clients list... Yippee!

Still can't perform any actions on them though, so now thinking "what was the point of that?".

Anyway, just thought I would share this with you.

21 June G writes

My agent service account was set up in March. When I logged into it last week it asked me for my passport details and promptly morphed into my personal tax account. Great for checking my state pension projection but not for the intended purpose. I called the making VAT digital helpline.

Complaint no 1 is that there is no dedicated agents helpline for this. To cut to the chase they could not help anyway, I wont bore you with further detail. The contact actually admitted through many pauses and holds that he was reading from the manual as he had "not had much training in this". He admitted defeat and had to escalate to a specialst tech team for a call back. That was on Wed 12 June and I should have been called by Tuesday the 19th.

Complaint 2 is that no call arrived. I called the helpline again on the 20th and was give a call reference this time (always get one if you call them, for appeal purposes if nothing else). A call was promised by noon today.

Complaint No 3 You can guess the rest or I would not be bothering to write this. So where do I go from here. If I try to re-register as an agent I am told that we are already registered. so I can do no more until HMRC contact me, or I call again. I am to contact my "administrator" and who might that be, one wonders. This is a very troublesome and worrying issue and has taken loads of my time.

I am now writing to the VAT Office (anyone know the address??) about an overdue return where my client is due a £14000 repayment for a return that we cannot submit. The one thing HMRC really must take on board is the need to have dedicated Agents technical support lines. Being treated like a member of the public is just not good enough. We need a fast track way to call them and identify oursleves to them. I doubt my mobile will survive another call where I have to explain myslef to that darn voice system that keeps telling you that there is loads of information on and saying "now tell me ...." . What question should I ask it anyway? Perhaps I should give it the HMRC call reference? It' s back to square one with a fresh call on Monday. I have run systems support desks and once a call reference is logged it is an open call and should never be closed until it is cleared or escalated. The caller than then call back with the reference and get right to the support desk where they can read the call history. If HMRC are serious about this degree of dependence on tech it is all very well but they need a much more professional approach to IT support for the agent community. This is a truly awful service..






Comments (2)

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This sounds like a really annoying situation! Hopefully all the errors get resolved soon. Thanks for the post!

Comment was last edited about 1 year ago by Nichola Ross Martin Nichola Ross Martin
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My VAT client has disappeared from my new Agent Services Account too!

I've had to ask HMRC to send him an authorisation code again

MVD continues to waste my time

What is HMRC playing at?

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