Whether you use a friend, relative, tax adviser or professional accountant to handle your tax affairs, it’s become more important than ever to ensure they’re meeting HMRC’s stringent standards for agents.
Non-compliancy can lead to all sorts of complications from data breaches to penalty fines and even criminal proceedings.
Are you confident your currently appointed tax agent is meeting the standards?
As an unregulated profession, you really need to do your homework when deciding to authorise someone else to handle your tax affairs. It’s imperative that you ensure you’re completely covered when it comes to HMRC minimum standard requirements, not to mention legalities, accurate calculations, rebates, assessments and deadlines.
HMRC allow you to authorise someone to manage your tax online. If you run a small business you are more than likely aware that you can ask a friend or family member to register to manage your tax online - this is called having a ‘trusted helper’.
Your trusted helper can:
· check you’re paying the right amount of Income Tax
· check or update your personal tax account
· claim a tax refund
· check or update your company car tax
· You’ll still be legally responsible for your own tax.
Though it may be tempting to use a ‘trusted helper’, even with their best intentions it can be hard for them to keep on top of all current legislation, requirements and deadlines. Tax and compliancy can be a minefield, so you have to ask yourself – Am I willing to risk the consequences of non-compliance regarding my tax affairs with HMRC?
If you use a friend or family member it’s your responsibility to check they understand and comply with all aspects of your tax responsibilities as you are completely liable for any errors.
What are the HMRC Standards for agents?
HM Revenue and Customs expects high standards that promote tax compliance from anyone who offers to represent or give advice to taxpayers. This means your tax agent will need to comply with the full list below.
Any action taken by an agent which conflicts with these standards can trigger a tax investigation along with irregularities in figures, miss-calculations, late filings and more.
A tax investigation can be disruptive, lengthy and costly –find out more about what you can expect here: What to Expect with a Tax Investigation
HMRC requires all tax agents to maintain high standards that promote tax compliance, these include but are not limited to;
· maintaining correct and up-to-date knowledge of the areas of tax that they deal with
· working to prevent errors in their clients’ tax calculations or claims, taking particular care not to include figures in returns or claims which are not sustainable
· advising their clients to take steps to set matters right where they find errors in their tax affairs (if the errors go uncorrected, this could risk enabling tax evasion that may be subject to criminal investigation)
· fully complying with data protection law and regulations, including keeping online access credentials safe from unauthorised use at all times
· maintain the security of their systems and their HMRC account credentials against current threats
· fully complying with tax law and regulations relating to their professional activity, including registering under, and adhering to, the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017
· ensuring that their own tax affairs are correct and up to date
· dealing courteously and professionally with HMRC staff
· disclosing all relevant information to HMRC
· Agents must act lawfully and with integrity at all times and not suggesting or implying that HMRC endorses or regulates their role as an agent
This sounds like a lot, right? Well it is. At Blue Rocket our whole company undertake regular compliance led training from anti-money laundering to data protection compliance. Are you confident the same is true for your current agent?
HMRC are constantly developing the way they work with agents as part of HMRC’s Agents Strategy with the intention of better differentiating between agents according to the value they add or risks they present to compliance. As they use this data more effectively in this way, they ever improve their ability to identify instances of non-compliance with the set-out standards.
HMRC has several powers to address poor agent practice;
They can refuse to deal with a tax agent, pursue criminal cases, apply civil penalties where tax agents are found to have been dishonest, or suspend access to certain online services for tax agents. You can only imagine how disruptive any experience of the above would be for you and your business.
NOTE: HMRC does not regulate agents. The commercial tax services market is self-regulating.
Don’t leave yourself exposed to risk. Ensure your appointed tax agent is fully compliant with all areas of the HMRC standards so you can rest assured you’re in safe hands.
If you would like to speak to us at Blue Rocket Accounting about how we can help handle your tax affairs moving forwards as a fully compliant agent, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
We offer all new clients a free, no obligation initial meeting with an expert accountant.
Why wait, book a meeting today. Call us on 01322 555442.