In September 2015 Anthony Thomas was installed as Master of the Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers. Anthony Thomas is a former CIOT President and at the time of his installation he made the following comments:
“my sense is of HMRC’s reluctance to genuinely engage with the tax profession unless it suits them. I believe we tax professionals are seen as very much getting in their way——almost as if they regard looking after the best interests of our clients is an offence. Tax agents are not really trusted by HMRC despite what they may say and often are being ignored or side lined. Working together is now more working apart. HMRC are talking at rather than talking with us which is not very promising for future engagement.”
How prophetic were his comments and I’ve no doubt that in making them at his installation he hoped that HMRC might pay some attention and actually engage with us to help make the tax code work for all.
Yet here we are two years down the line and if anything the situation has become worse as HMRC drive ahead with tech solutions that focus on the taxpayer and choose to forget that millions of them have actually engaged us to deal with their taxation affairs.
At small practice level our clients expect that we get copies of everything HMRC send them, they expect that having received copies if any form of answer or information is required we will deal with it and basically, they don’t want to be bothered because after all that’s what they employ us to do isn’t it.
But now we find increasingly that our efforts to deal with our clients problems are hindered by a revenue service that directs their attention to our clients and if we need anything we are advised to get our clients to get the answer from their Personal Tax Account yet as HMRC know full well many millions of taxpayers have not registered for their Personal Tax Account and in all honestly see no reason to bother because they have appointed an Accountant haven’t they.
In some circumstances we are told that if we need information HMRC will send what we require in the post to our clients which kind of defeats this supposed tech revolution doesn’t it.
Of course we are advised by HMRC that we will be getting access to the data that our client’s want us to have access to in fact they expect that we will have access to but it’s always months down the line and in the meantime our clients confidence in us as their Accountant is being eroded.
But maybe, just maybe, behind the rhetoric and the easily quoted platitudes the truth is that is exactly what they want. Could it be that HMRC would be happy as happy could be if taxpayers and small businesses relied on software to take the place of accountants? Would HMRC be as happy as happy could be if taxpayers and businesses dealt directly with them rather than have Accountants acting on their behalf? Do HMRC genuinely believe that that 44% of the Tax Gap is down to small businesses? and of course these are the small businesses that use an Accountant aren’t they?
As Anthony Thomas said back in 2015 maybe it’s because HMRC don’t trust us?
- Tony Margaritelli – Chairman, ICPA
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