Do HMRC REALLY value the work we do?

Below I have an extract from the latest Office of Tax Simplification Report issued this month (May 2019) relating to the “Strategy for Agents” the highlights and underlining are mine.

“4.35 HMRC recognises the valuable role tax agents play and seeks to support them. An Agent Update bulletin is produced regularly, covering key topics and relevant reminders, and regular webinars are produced on areas of significant interest. Agents are able to complete some transactions on behalf of clients. However, the approach is inconsistent, with agents unable to access a number of key services and sometimes compelled to ask their clients to do things that the client would much prefer the agent to do.

4.36 If agents were able to see relevant client information and carry out such tasks routinely, they would be completed more quickly and with fewer mistakes. This would reduce costs for clients and for HMRC, who would have fewer calls and queries to resolve.

4.37 Experienced tax agents can also add value by being consistently consulted when changes are being implemented or communications developed.

4.38 Agent feedback in HMRC surveys is consistently less favourable then feedback from individuals and businesses. There have been some improvements in recent years but there is a good deal further to go. The OTS has been concerned to see evidence of considerable gaps in mutual understanding between the agents and HMRC officials it has met in researching this subject.

4.39 Agents’ role in supporting compliance with the tax system is recognised in HMRC’s 2014 Agent Strategy, which commits HMRC to a number of initiatives to help agents.12 Some of these have been completed, but HMRC has struggled to prioritise implementation of this strategy in the face of other demands.

4.40 The principles set out in the Agent Strategy seem sound and reasonable: they include enabling agents to see the same information as their clients and carry out any transaction their client wishes them to do. The challenge lies in implementation. At present, there is very limited agent visibility of taxpayer information. The OTS’s recommendations are intended to ensure consistent implementation of the strategy, to ensure that agents are able to support clients in complying with tax at minimum cost.”

Being able to see what our clients are looking at and to complete whatever our clients require us to do on their behalf is fundamental to building a good relationship with Accountants and what we are trying to do will only make everyone’s life easier. Now I know there are security issues to consider but surly they have and or can easily be resolved what cannot be so easily resolved is HMRC’s desire to actually make it happen.

As 4.40 shows it’s just not happening and that’s not for the want of asking as this goes as far back as 2014 and still we are hardly any further forward and HMRC for reasons known only to themselves prioritise everything else rather than accountants and then bemoan accountants for facilitating a supposed tax gap.

What is immensely frustrating is of course that whilst we as Accountants are basically forced to do their work and to carry additional costs because of their inefficiencies we are always being told “We value the work you do” and there you are at 4.35 what do we see….

It seems that the Office of Tax Simplification have been taken in by the same rhetoric because after some many years is it not time to stand up and say “don’t say it if you don’t back it up with actions.”

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