ICAEW’s Tax Faculty receives regular feedback from members on problems with the Agent Services Account (ASA).
The ASA is work in progress. In due course, it is expected to be the access route for all HMRC online agent services. That is some years away. The transition may not be smooth.
Problems include the following.
1. Services not being available directly from the ASA
Some progress has been made in resolving this. The VAT registration service is now available directly from the ASA. Other VAT services are available under “Manage your client’s VAT details”. The CGT property and Trust Registration services are available from the ASA. Older services such as income tax self assessment and corporation tax continue to be available from HMRC’s Online Agent Services account.
2. The lack of a client list in the ASA
To access services, it is necessary to enter the appropriate client reference such as a VAT registration number; there is no option to select a client name.
3. Lack of functionality
The ASA currently does not have functionality that allows agents to restrict staff access to certain clients. This is now being developed.
Managing access groups
HMRC is currently testing a service that will allow agents with up to 1,000 clients to control staff access to client’s HMRC records. Consider whether it is appropriate to allow all staff to have access to all clients. Test and feed back on this service. Managing individual sign in details can be cumbersome, but sharing credentials is not best practice.
HMRC is also looking at how it could introduce multi-factor authentication (MFA) on agent accounts (ASA and online agent services) and has asked the Tax Faculty to share the following message:
“HMRC is undertaking a piece of work to understand more about the impact that HMRC authentication processes have on agents and their staff when transacting with HMRC."
“We are seeking volunteers who are willing to talk to us about the pain points they experience today along with the impact that multi factor authentication would have on their business, should HMRC roll it out to agent services. We are looking for suggestions on how HMRC could adapt its MFA service to accommodate agents’ operating models. For example, agents might want to receive the challenge code in a different way and there may be alternative methods of authentication that could be explored. Is there best practice for circumstances when agents authenticate themselves as a third party to transact for their clients, such as to access clients’ banking, land registry or benefits? Do you have experience of having your HMRC credentials compromised?
“We cannot guarantee that we will be able to speak to every volunteer, but we are keen to engage with as many agents as possible to gather their requirements of a future service and understand the impact authentication has on their businesses.
“We are particularly keen to talk to micro, small and medium sized agents. If you are interested, please contact ICAEW's Senior Technical Manager Digital Taxation, Caroline Miskin, with your name and contact details along with details of the number of staff and clients, taxes covered and whether your staff share User IDs or have individual User IDs to access online services.”
MFA is best practice and becoming increasingly standard. It introduces additional steps, but significantly reduces the risk of online accounts being compromised.
It is essential that agents are involved in how HMRC develops agent accounts, so please do participate.
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