There are many things that HMRC do which brings confusion to those that have to deal with them.
One of them is to call accountants Agents.
Obviously HMRC are using the word Agent in its true meaning; an Agent is someone who acts on behalf of another person.
In reality you can ask anyone to act on your behalf when dealing with your tax affairs; an accountant, a voluntary organisation such as Citizens Advice (previously known as CAB Citizens Advice Bureau), a relative or someone else.
Registering your James or Jane Bond
For obvious Data Protection reasons, HMRC will not speak with anyone about your tax affairs unless they are registered with them as an Agent.
The best way to get your accountant recorded as your agent with HMRC is to ask them (your accountant) to do the set up via the HMRC system known as their Gateway.
Your accountant will need to provide HMRC with their special Agent codes for each tax service that they are set up with HMRC to deal with on your behalf.
Yes it’s a silly system whereby HMRC insist on accountants having a separate Agent code for each of the taxes being Self Assessment, Corporation Tax, VAT, PAYE etc. It makes no logical sense and you get past the stage of trying to question why things work in this way. You’d like to think that one code for all taxes would suffice!
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Once HMRC have set up your accountant as the Agent they will send you a code to pass to your accountant which will complete the set up process. As the code only lasts for 30 days you should pass it to your accountant as soon as you receive it so that the set up can be completed before the code runs out.
HMRC do set out some Standards that they expect Agents to meet including integrity, professional competence and due care as well as professional behaviour. If your accountant is a member of a professional accountancy body such as the ICAEW, ACCA, CIMA or AAT then these standards will be similar to those that they would already need to adhere to.
However anyone can call themselves an accountant without the need to be a member of a recognised accountancy body or the need to have experience or qualifications. The term accountant is not regulated in the UK. So do check your accountant’s credentials before you appoint them. Click for our 10 tips to make sure you get the right accountant for your business.