HMRC has released new guidance on how to choose a tax agent, advising taxpayers to check if an agent holds relevant professional qualifications, as the tax authority continues to clamp down on high volume agents.
HMRC has once again updated its guidance for customers who may be on the hunt for a tax agent to represent them, laying out the parameters an individual should consider when choosing an agent.
Published on 22 September, the page includes a large section on choosing an agent with affiliation to a professional body, advising customers to “check if your adviser holds relevant professional qualifications or is a member of an accountancy or tax professional body.”
HMRC expanded on this point, adding “that anyone can call themselves a tax agent – they do not have to have qualifications or professional training and HMRC does not regulate agents.”
The section continued: “Professional bodies will also review the behaviour of their members and take action if their behaviour falls short of professional standards. Members of professional bodies are also more likely to hold professional indemnity insurance, which can help protect you if things go wrong.”
A Warning Against High Volume Agents
The guidance, in part, appears to be in response to the spate of High Volume Agents (HVA). It advises taxpayers that they can claim a tax refund on GOV.UK and that they “do not need an agent to do this for you.”
The guidance continued, “An agent will charge fees for claiming a tax refund for you.”
Last month, HMRC reimbursed 60,000 taxpayers who had been misled into losing significant chunks of their tax refund to the HVA Tax Credit Ltd. Investigating the organisation, the tax authority wrote that “not satisfied that the new process and documentation led to a valid assignment of repayments” in an announcement of the repayments.
This also follows on from HMRC’s introduction of the p87, a form designed to ensure that claims for income tax relief on employment expenses are made directly to the tax authority.
How To Choose An Agent
The guidance also recommends taxpayers pay close attention to other factors when choosing an agent and emphasising the need to “meet the person who will be interacting with HMRC on your behalf and find out how much they will charge you for their services”.
The advice in choosing a tax agent includes checking their website and seeing what tax services they offer, reviewing their reputation and history by seeking out online reviews and checking their Facebook page and ensuring they have the right experience and services (such as payroll or audit).
Other factors to consider include reading the terms and conditions to understand any fees they will have to pay and checking how and when they would be expected to make payment.
The guidance also recommends taxpayers asking if the agent is registered for Online Access with HMRC and if they’re aware of and meeting HMRC’s agent standards.
Registering As A Tax Agent
The revamped guidance previous moves from HMRC to push the accounting profession to further integrate with professional bodies after recently adding the change to another of their guidance pages which is chiefly focused on Registering As A Tax Agent.