The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has given a qualified welcome to today’s publication of the consultation document: 'Establishing the future relationship between the tax agent community and HMRC'.
The document sets out proposals for the future relationship between the tax agent community and HMRC. The results of the consultation will affect the future of the tax profession, with proposals including a system of enrolment of professional tax agents, with enrolled agents granted access to a ‘self-serve’ facility enabling them to access directly some HMRC systems online. This could include agent self-authorisation, seeing the full range of their clients’ payments and liabilities, and amending clients’ coding notices.
Anthony Thomas, CIOT President, commented:
“This is welcome recognition from the Government that, when it comes to making the tax system work better, tax advisers are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
“The prospect of a self-serve facility for agents to access some HMRC systems is likely to be welcome. Agents are frustrated at the time they – and their clients – waste waiting for HMRC to do their job, or correcting HMRC errors, or chasing progress on routine business. If implemented effectively this could save tax agents, taxpayers and HMRC time and money.
“As with any system of enrolment, there is a risk of excessive bureaucracy and a danger that it may lead to a perception that tax advisers work as the agents of the Revenue rather than their clients. It will be vital that HMRC’s back-end processes match the self-serve facilities.”
Anthony Thomas said that the Institute had two ‘red lines’ on the proposals:
“Firstly, any attempt to introduce obligations between tax agents and HMRC which impinge on agents’ relationships with their clients would be completely unacceptable. I welcome HMRC’s statement in the consultation paper that they are not seeking to change this. We will hold them to this.
“Secondly, any system of enrolment, and inevitably disenrolment, of tax agents must be overseen by an independent body. While we are very much with HMRC on wanting to get the highest standards among tax professionals, HMRC cannot be permitted to be prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner when someone’s livelihood is potentially at stake.”
Key questions posed by the consultation include whether enrolment will be compulsory or optional for paid tax agents, and whether agents should be required to hold a relevant tax qualification and/or be subject to the professional development requirements usually associated with membership of a professional body before acting.
Anthony Thomas commented:
“The CIOT recognises that there is a possible human rights issue around denying access to those already in practice but believes that it is in the interests of taxpayers and the tax authorities that all tax agents operate to the highest professional standards. This may mean full access is only given to qualified professionals.”
The CIOT recognises that there is an issue around comparable access for unrepresented taxpayers. The CIOT’s Low Incomes Tax Reform Group has commented further on this aspect.
The CIOT will be undertaking extensive consultation with its members before responding in detail to the consultation.
31 May 2011