National Audit Office Report Highlights Taxing Problems

ACCA comments on report that recommends tax agents and HMRC work together better.

ACCA, the Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants, today champions the work of tax agents following publication of a report by the National Audit Office called HM Revenue & Customs Engaging with Tax Agents (555k PDF)

The report details how HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) works with tax agents in the UK, making a number of recommendations for the future.

ACCA is particularly pleased to see the official audit body recommend the need for more investment in systems and processes to avoid errors, and the need to liaise with tax agents to make the tax system work better.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at ACCA says:

“It is pleasing to see that the NAO recognises the work of tax agents in dealing with the eight million or so taxpayers who rely on their professional expertise to steer them through a complex tax regime.”

“The work of qualified tax agents in acting as tax collectors for the government should not be underestimated. They act to ensure that the right tax is paid at the right time. And while errors can and do occur, this often happens wholly within the framework of a complex tax system.”

“However, while ACCA welcomes this report in its broadest sense, I was surprised to see that the statistical evidence used in the NAO’s report is over half a decade old – it’s simply not timely enough. In addition, if the NAO report had been holistic it would have identified that qualified representatives cause the minority of errors.”

Mr Roy-Chowdhury is also concerned about the lack of co-ordination between HMRC and tax agents. The report says that HMRC does not tailor its approach to tax agents according to their individual performance record.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury adds:

“The report also fails to take a 360 degree look at the work of tax agents and HMRC by totally ignoring overpayments of tax. This gives the impression that agents only seek to underpay.”

“The issue of HMRC registering tax agents is interesting. It would certainly secure the relationship between tax body and tax agent, but I wonder whether this would add an extra burden on an already stretched HMRC.”

Mr Roy-Chowdhury concludes:

“ACCA and its membership is always keen to work with HMRC to make sure the tax system works more smoothly, so it will be interesting to see how many of the NAO’s recommendations are taken forward.”

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