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How will HMRC agent services changes impact accountants and agents?

22 Sept 2023

HMRC agent services changes

Within HMRC's agent services account is the option to interact with HMRC via the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL). This has been a useful tool for agents for a number of years, in any accounting period. As of October 2023, HMRC is announcing changes to the ADL service which will impact agents.

This article looks at what changes have been announced and how they are likely to affect agents in the short to medium term. All well as this we will discuss what alternatives are being provided by the UK tax authorities.

Read on for more information about HMRC's changes to the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL). As always, 20:20 Innovation are on hand to keep members and all our customers informed of any impact. If you would like more information about joining why not book a free 30-minute demo with our team today.

What is HMRC Agent Services?

Within the scope of HMRC's online services is the HMRC agent services account. As tax agents or accountants, you will no doubt access this for any of the following:

  • Making tax digital VAT and income tax affairs.
  • Income tax pilots.
  • Direct HMRC communication through software providers.

Agents can also utilise the agent dashboard for other online business services such as registering a trust or an estate online.

Accountant looks at tax administration system

What is the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL)?

The Agent Dedicated Line is a phone service offered to those who are formally authorised to act as an agent or a tax advisor for your clients.

The queries on the Agent Dedicated Line must be in relation to self assessment return or PAYE. Anything relating to tax or employment history should be directed elsewhere.

Presently the Agent Dedicated Line is available Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm. It is closed at weekends and on Bank Holidays.

What changes to the agent services account have been announced?

HMRC have announced important changes to their Agent Dedicated Line (ADL), taking effect from 2 October 2023. Other areas of the agent services account - including the digital services - remain unaffected.

These changes are likely to have an impact on service levels for agents like you this tax year. HMRC are reiterating their commitment to providing the right level of support for agents and say that the proposed changes are in place to support agents and help them improve quality.

The Agent Dedicated Line will be curbed as follows:

HMRC no longer operate to 10-minute service levels

HMRC will no longer operate to a 10-minute service level on the ADL. Waiting times will now vary (and probably exceed 10-minutes) depending on how many agents are calling HMRC at any one time.

Agent Dedicated Line to inform on call waiting times

Going forward there will be information on how long the call waiting time will be. The theory here is to allow agents to make a decision on whether to continue to wait in the queue, call back at another time or, for example, if they can, use a digital option to resolve their query.

PAYE related queries to be re-routed

It may be necessary to call the ADL more than once in relation to the same client query. This is because if tax agents bring PAYE related queries, they are being re-routed to a different team. A combined self-assessment and PAYE query will no longer be handed by the same person.

Agent looks at corporation tax and capital gains tax

Have HMRC commented on Agent Dedicated Line changes?

In the interest of supporting 20:20 Innovation members with the latest updates on this announcement, Sharon Cooke spoke to a HMRC representative at the Accountex North event.

HMRC understand that agents only call the Agent Dedicated Line (ADL) if needed. Given the additional digital options in the HMRC agent services portal, agents will have already been exposed to these alternatives. Digital services are provided in the interest of efficiency. There is ongoing frustration that calling the ADL and waiting in a queue is often the only route to resolution.

What is the impact of new ADL service levels?

As a tax agent, you will undoubtedly have your opinion on the announcement and how it will impact you and your clients. Overall, it appears this is a move to better manage limited HMRC resources, rather than improving quality.

Key accounting professional bodies are expressing serious concern at these developments and highlighting the significant costs of poor HMRC service performance to agents, taxpayers small businesses, and the economy.

To try to relieve some of the pain, HMRC says that they are exploring a webchat facility for the ADL but acknowledge that this is in its early stages. They are also reminding us of the following tools*:

Both are being pushed by HMRC in the hope that this will limit how often agents need to call the ADL to chase in-progress matters.

*The next page you see, if you proceed, is not part of 20:20 Innovation.

What alternatives exist in HMRC online services?

There are various options for agents who wish to utilise the online services portal. These include:

Self Assessment for Agents

There is a self assessment for agents dashboard which is currently allowing agents to:

  • View your self assessment clients' PAYE coding notice.
  • View your clients' self assessment statements.
  • View the tax liabilities and the payments a client has made.
  • Make claims to reduce your clients' payments on account.
  • Submit your clients' tax returns online.
  • View and change your clients' contact details online.
  • Download your full client list.

PAYE for Agents

This online service is available for you to manage most of your client's responsibilities for things like:

  • Employer PAYE.
  • The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).
  • Employment Related Securities.

Income Record Viewer for Agents

This agent dashboard can be used to access your client's information on:

  • PAYE information for the current year plus the 4 previous tax years
  • Employment records, including time in employment, taxable benefits and any gap where no record is held by HMRC
  • Income record
  • State and private pension information

How can agents register for a HMRC agent services account?

You can easily set up a HMRC agent services account. Before you go ahead, there are a few things that you will need to hand. These include:

  • Your government gateway ID.
  • Your government gateway password.
  • Your unique taxpayer reference number (UTR).
  • The taxpayers postcode associated with the UTR.

Once you have complete the various steps to create your HMRC agent services account you will have access to the agent dashboard. In here, you can then link your existing clients from any other existing government gateway ID to that agent services account. You can also invite any new clients to your agent services account.

Who should register for a HMRC agent services account?

If your are a tax agent working on behalf of any clients that are involved in the process of Making Tax Digital then you should look to create an agent services account. An account would also be useful to anyone (accountant, tax advisor or tax agent) who is looking to register trusts or estates online.

As the government push digital services and reiterate their commitment to Making Tax Digital, the number of online services being offered by the tax authority and HRMC will no doubt increase in the future.

As a result, the need for an online agent services account extends to, arguably, all tax agents.

Accountant looks at income tax self assessment

How will HMRC agent services changes impact agents: Conclusion

As we move into October, it seems the best we can do is to try to avoid calling the ADL at peak times. The notification of wait times will gradually help us to learn when these peak times are and when good (or less painful?) times to call will be.

Can 20:20 Innovation support accountants with the HMRC changes?

We encourage our 20:20 Innovation members to share their experiences in our dedicated members-only LinkedIn group and we will continue to share any news we hear in our Virtual Member Meetings and otherwise.

20:20 Innovation provides professional training, marketing and compliance support for accountancy firms and their teams, with unrivalled member benefits. 20:20 Innovation’s priority is to help firms grow their client base and expand their service offerings in the changing environment. 20:20 Innovation Membership is specifically designed to provide you and your entire team with all the support you need at a price everybody can afford, starting from just £90 per month and including over 100 hours of CPD for your entire fee earning staff!

If you would like more information about joining 20:20 Innovation why not book a free 30-minute demo with our team today or call us on +44 (0) 121 314 2020.

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