Dealing with HMRC: the trials and tribulations for the modern-day accountant
Just because you are paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get you!, writes the Secret Accountant
Do you ever have the feeling that HMRC is trying to bypass us and get direct to our clients, the taxpayers? (Sorry, I should have said ‘customers’. I love that phrase; it implies a choice about whether to engage or not with HMRC. I must have missed something along the way – I thought it was compulsory?). Is that because they think they will obtain more tax from our poor, unsuspecting clients?
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that everyone should pay the correct amount of tax and I am not in the habit of encouraging shady dealing. However, I am all for ensuring that clients do not pay more tax than they legally need to.
Perhaps that is precisely why I and my colleagues have this feeling that we may be being marginalised. But before we even reach that point, dealing with HMRC on a regular basis may easily result in the men in white coats coming to take us away:
The dividend tax allowance changes introduced in 2016 are too complicated for HMRC’s systems to calculate the correct amount of personal tax payable for all permutations of income. HMRC has told the software houses about this issue and advised that those clients who will be affected, or their agents, will have to submit paper tax returns between now and 31 January 2018.(ACCA note: further announcements are expected soon, and online submissions should be the norm.)
From 31 May 2017 employers and pension providers alike could receive an increased number of tax codes as a result of HMRC’s modifications to the PAYE system. The net effect of these changes is that tax agents and employers will receive more frequent coding changes, although we have been promised no more than one code change per month for a taxpayer!
HMRC is no longer giving out PAYE information to agents direct, to assist with the completion of self-assessment returns.
When trying to send a final real-time information (RTI) submission for 2016/17 before the deadline I was greeted with the message: ‘HMRC are experiencing technical difficulties. Try later to ensure successful submission.’
After months of trying to sort out the discrepancy between a PAYE account shown by HMRC and the RTIs submitted, I resorted to using the Agent Account Manager service. It was agreed that there was a problem but the department that needed to provide the required information was ‘experiencing an unusually high volume of work’.
Two tax codes were issued for the same employee on the same day. The officer at the end of the agent support line could not advise which one should be used (apart from believing that P45s were still supposed to be submitted to HMRC whenever an employee left).
But hey, Making Tax Digital is just around the corner: what can possibly go wrong?