HMRC releases report on its review of powers to uphold its standard for agents

The UK’s HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has recently published a review of its powers to tackle poor agent behaviour and uphold standards for its agents.

This follows an HMRC call for evidence in 2020 about raising standards in the tax advice market, which STEP responded to. STEP also replied to the consultation through the PCRT (Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation) group which STEP is a member of along with other professional bodies.

The report fits within HMRC’s overall work to raise tax advice standards. Later this year, it will consult on tackling the high cost of claiming tax refunds, and options for improving the regulatory framework in the tax advice market.

In the review, HMRC considered:

  • the scope of its powers and whether they cover all elements of its standard for agents;
  • its overall approach to using these powers to tackle poor agent behaviours; and
  • whether there were any differences in approach in relation to those agents who are professional body members compared to those who are not.

The review concluded that while HMRC is using the available options to achieve positive outcomes where poor tax agent behaviours are found, more could be done to bring clarity and consistency to HMRC’s relationship with tax agents.

Additionally the review concluded that by improving analysis of patterns of behaviour, resource can be better targeted at the worst behaviours and HMRC could make more use of its existing powers.

HMRC has also announced it will undertake the four following actions in this area:

  1. It will publish its approach to tax agents in a single policy statement, including how to report breaches of the agent standard;
  2. It will update and publicise the agent standard;
  3. It will continue to ensure consistency across HMRC in its overall approach to agents
  4. It will focus HMRC’s efforts to uphold its agent standard on the worst agent behaviours.

STEP welcomes the publication and findings of HMRC’s review and in particular that HMRC has highlighted the need to bring clarity and consistency to HMRC’s relationship with tax agents.

STEP will continue to engage with HMRC on this policy project and monitor its impact on our members who provide UK tax advice.

Robert Carington, Policy Executive

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