31st January 2020
In days gone by, HMRC (HM Inspector of Taxes in those days) used to run regional offices. Rather than contact a national helpline or advice centre, you would direct your specific enquiry to the local office, determined by your location or that of your employer for income tax issues.
In fact, I even remember visiting the Chichester office and sitting down, face-to-face with a tax inspector. In these days of online help, email and call centres it seems hard to imagine doesn’t it.
HMRC will argue that automation has made dealing with them easier and as per my recent post on the impact of MTD and RTI, certain elements actually are. But we still hear horror stories of huge and incorrect tax bills and individuals getting ‘stuck in the system’. Knowing who to contact, why and when and then being able to use the right terminology and references to ensure a swift resolution to your query is a minefield. There also remains a large dollop of fear for many in picking up the phone to HMRC and inviting them to lay bare your tax affairs. The concern being that an incorrect word or comment here or there will land you in hot water. I remember a story of a local Littlewoods Pools collector (for those that remember the pools) being investigated by HMRC as one of his customers on the round was a tax inspector who casually enquired after the value of the income from being a pools collector. Interestingly the inspector continued to do the pools post investigation…
Thankfully, for those of you that identify with the above and either have an innate fear of dealing with HMRC or simply dislike it, there is another option – you can appoint an agent. An appointed agent can manage all dealings with HMRC on your behalf. HMRC will have a record of the appointment and will copy all relevant tax documents to your agent e.g. coding notices, annual returns etc.
As well as having a filter between you and HMRC, your agent will know the right terminology to use, they are less emotionally involved (one step removed) and will typically have access to a different team at HMRC – used to dealing with accounting and tax professionals. Dependent on your engagement with the agent they may have a clear understanding of your overall circumstances, both commercial and personal, and will be able to manage both sides of the tax equation for you. This holistic approach avoids one issue creating another or simply moving the problem from the business to your personal affairs.
I act as the appointed agent for a growing number of my clients and in conjunction with the increased automation of calculating and reporting tax, the vast majority enjoy a far easier relationship with the tax authorities. So, if the idea of dealing-direct with HMRC fills you with fear and loathing, why not appoint an agent?