This is number four in a series of articles on this blog from CIOT members exploring different aspects of the Tax Agent Strategy (TAS) consultation. The articles are published in a personal capacity, are intended to stimulate debate and do not represent agreed CIOT policy. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to post an article. Comments in response are very welcome. All articles are written by CIOT members but comments may come from anyone.
One of the myths arising out of the Tax Agent Strategy consultation document is that HMRC want to regulate the tax profession. They Do Not.
HMRC need to know who and where the tax agents are, and if they are a valid business. But HMRC would rather leave the onerous task of regulating and disciplining tax agents to the professional bodies those agents are members of. This begs the question – who regulates those tax agents who are not members of a professional body?
I believe the confusion over regulation has arisen due to the interaction of agent enrolment and self-serve privileges as (poorly) explained in the con doc. Enrolled agents will be able to self-serve, and HMRC want all paid agents to become enrolled eventually. However, HMRC will retain the option to switch-off the self-serve privileges of a particular enrolled agent at short notice, to protect the system against fraud.
The question of how to an agent would lose their ‘enrolled’ status (quite separate from their self-serve privileges), is not adequately addressed in this con doc. It is implied that once an agent loses their enrolled status they will cease to be able to act for clients, and thus would lose their business. The question of who regulates the enrolled agents is key to moving this Tax Agent Strategy forward.
27 June 2011