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HMRC publishes review of powers to uphold its standard for agents

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Published: 11 Mar 2022 Update History

As part of HMRC’s work on raising standards in the tax advice market, HMRC announces four actions to strengthen its approach to upholding agent standards.

The report, published on 10 March 2022, fulfils HMRC’s commitment to reveal the outcomes of an internal review of its powers to tackle poor agent behaviour and help to uphold its standard for agents. This was promised as one of the outcomes of its 2020 “Call for evidence into raising standards in the tax advice market”.

HMRC published the standard for agents (generally referred to as the agent standard) in 2016 to set expectations of professional conduct for tax agents who are not professional body members and therefore not covered by Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT). The agent standard mirrors most of PCRT’s key principles.

The report explains that HMRC seeks to uphold its agent standard by using engagement initiatives and a number of existing formal powers that align with that aim. The report covers HMRC’s engagement activity relating to tax agents alongside its policies and statutory powers that address poor tax agent behaviour.

The final chapter maps out which elements of the agent standard are addressed by those engagement activities, policies and powers. It makes three general conclusions about HMRC’s approach to tackling poor agent behaviours:

  • HMRC’s overall approach for tackling poor agent behaviours is still evolving;
  • the impact of HMRC’s activity to tackle poor tax agent behaviour will be strengthened by greater co-ordination and integration of best practice; and
  • public information about HMRC’s policies and processes relating to tax agents and how poor tax agent behaviours are tackled is spread across many different locations and is not as joined up as it could be.

The report concludes that in 2022, HMRC will take action to:

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

The report also indicates that further consultations will follow later in 2022 on:

  • tackling the high cost of claiming tax refunds; and
  • options for improving the regulatory framework in the tax advice market.
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