Online client authorisation - how to use HMRC Online Services

As a tax agent, adviser or accountant, you must be formally authorised by an individual or a business to deal with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on their behalf. HMRC won't be able to discuss your client's personal or financial information with you if they haven't received this formal authorisation.

In most cases getting formal authorisation is straightforward. The easiest way to set up and manage your client authorisations is to use HMRC Online Services. This saves you and your client from having to complete paper forms and makes it easier for you to manage authorisations for all your clients online. You can use HMRC Online Services to set up client authorisations for most HMRC business areas, without the need to submit paper forms.

This guide explains how to set up client authorisations online for Self Assessment, Corporation Tax, PAYE for employers, Construction Industry Scheme and VAT services. It also provides links to more detailed guidance and tells you how to get help when using HMRC Online Services.

On this page:

Online agent authorisation: an overview

You and/or your client can set up authorisations online for the following HMRC business areas:

  • Self Assessment for individuals, businesses, trusts and partnerships - these authorisations will also cover National Insurance and, for individuals, requests for information to help calculate the High Income Child Benefit charge
  • Corporation Tax
  • PAYE for employers
  • VAT
  • VAT EU Refunds
  • VAT EC Sales List and Reverse Charge Sales List
  • Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA)
  • Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)

Setting up client authorisations online is quick, easy and secure. Once you're authorised, you can use HMRC Online Services to manage your client lists, file returns and exchange information with HMRC online. But remember, you'll first need to sign up for HMRC Online Services and then enrol for each online service you want to use.

If you set up client authorisations online, you will be entitled to act on your client's behalf online, by phone and in writing for the appropriate HMRC business area(s) once HMRC's systems have been updated.

Please note: agent authorisation will not transfer any of your client's legal obligations to you.

Agent codes and agent reference numbers

Before you can set up online client authorisations you may need to obtain an agent code or agent reference number from HMRC. Follow the links below to find out more.

Self Assessment, PAYE/CIS and Corporation Tax: getting an agent code

Agent reference numbers for VAT

Agent reference numbers for VAT EU Refunds

Agent reference numbers for NOVA

If you can't set up client authorisations online

HMRC recommends you use their online services to set up client authorisations, but there are some occasions where this is not possible.

For example, you can't set up authorisations online for your tax credits clients or for individuals who are not within Self Assessment. Additionally, if your client has a British Forces Post Office (BFPO) address, you can't use HMRC Online Services to set up client authorisations for Self Assessment.

If you can't use or choose not to use HMRC Online Services to set up client authorisations, your client can complete a paper form instead - but there are some exceptions.

You can use the PAYE for Agents online service to set up client authorisations for PAYE/CIS for employers. If you choose not to use online services, your clients must complete form FBI 2 to enable you to act on their behalf online.

If your client wants to authorise you to register a VAT group, or to make changes to an existing group, on their behalf, they can use form VAT 53.

If your clients want you to act on their behalf for certain High Income Child Benefit charge matters, they should use form CH995.

Please note: paper forms won't authorise you to transact with HMRC online on behalf of your VAT clients.

Using HMRC paper forms to apply for client authorisation

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Self Assessment for individuals, businesses, partnerships and trusts

Once you have your agent code and you've signed up for HMRC Online Services, you'll need to enrol for the Self Assessment for Agents online service to request online client authorisation.

See a demonstration of how to sign up and enrol for HMRC's online services

Before you start the process, you'll need both of the following for your client:

  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
  • postcode

You then follow the on-screen instructions to set up your client authorisation.

HMRC will send your client a letter containing a unique authorisation code. Your client needs to pass this code number to you to enable you to complete the online authorisation process. The two letters in front of the code show which service it relates to. The code for Self Assessment includes the letters 'SA'. The code expires 30 days after HMRC issues it so it's important to tell your client that they'll be receiving it and that they must pass it onto you promptly.

Once you have been advised of the authorisation code, please log in to HMRC Online Services to complete the authorisation process. You should be able to see your new Self Assessment clients on your Self Assessment for Agents client list within a few days.

Once your client has authorised you to act on their behalf, HMRC will send letters and forms to you, including their Self Assessment statement (SA300) and the fixed automatic penalty notice (SA328). You'll also be able to view your client's account online along with any statements of account.

Log in to Self Assessment for Agents

How to set up and use the Self Assessment for Agents online service

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Corporation Tax

Once you have your agent code and you've signed up for HMRC Online Services, you'll need to enrol for the Corporation Tax for Agents online service to set up client authorisations.

Before you start, you'll need both of the following for your client:

  • Corporation Tax reference
  • registered office postcode (main business address if no registered office) or company registration number (CRN)

You then follow the on-screen instructions to set up your client authorisation.

See a demonstration of how to sign up and enrol for HMRC's online services

HMRC will send your client a letter containing a unique authorisation code. Your client needs to pass this code number to you to enable you to complete the online authorisation process. The two letters in front of the code show which service it relates to. The code for Corporation Tax includes the letters 'CT'. The code expires 30 days after HMRC issues it so it's important to tell your client that they'll be receiving it and that they must pass it onto you promptly.

Once you have been advised of the code online, please log in to HMRC Online Services to complete the authorisation process. It takes between one and four days after you've completed the authorisation process for your new Corporation Tax clients to appear on your client list.

Once authorisation is complete, HMRC will send letters and forms to you and you can view your client's account online.

Log in to Corporation Tax for Agents

How to set up and use the Corporation Tax for Agents online service

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PAYE for employers

Once you have your agent code and you've signed up for HMRC Online Services, you'll need to enrol for the PAYE for Agents online service to set up client authorisations.

Before you start, you'll need both of the following for your clients':

  • Employer PAYE reference
  • Accounts Office reference

You then follow the on-screen instructions to set up your client authorisation.

See a demonstration of how to sign up and enrol for HMRC's online services

HMRC will send your client a letter containing a unique authorisation code. Your client needs to pass this code number to you to enable you to complete the online authorisation process. The two letters in front of the code show which service it relates to. The code for PAYE includes the letters 'PE'. The code expires 30 days after HMRC issues it so it's important to tell your client that they'll be receiving it and that they must pass it onto you promptly.

New PAYE clients will usually appear on your client list within one working day of completing the authorisation process.

Log in to PAYE for Agents

Read more about setting up the PAYE for Agents online service

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Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)

This service is linked to the PAYE for Agents online service so the online authorisation process is the same as for PAYE for Agents above.

You can only set up online client authorisations for CIS if you've already enrolled for the PAYE for Agents online service. Please note: you need an agent code for PAYE for Agents to set up CIS client authorisations.

The authorisation code HMRC send to your client will include the letters 'CS'.

Read more on setting up the PAYE for Agents online service

Log in to PAYE for Agents

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VAT (returns submission)

To set up client authorisations online, you must enrol for the VAT for Agents online service. You must do this if you want to submit your clients' VAT Returns online, even if you have already been authorised to act on their behalf using a paper form 64-8.

If you're not VAT-registered in the UK yourself, you'll need to request a VAT agent reference number first. To do this, follow the link on the 'What you will need to enrol' page during the enrolment process for the VAT for Agents online service.

When you enrol for the VAT for Agents service, HMRC will automatically provide the option to use the VAT EU Refunds for Agents service. But you'll need to set up your client list for each service separately.

To complete the online agent authorisation process you'll need your client's:

  • VAT registration number
  • principal place of business postcode
  • effective date of registration for VAT
  • final month of the last VAT Return submitted to HMRC
  • Box 5 figure on the last VAT Return submitted to HMRC - enter N/A if your client is new to VAT and has not previously submitted a return

You'll find the first three pieces of information on your client's certificate of registration and, if appropriate, the 'Notice to file VAT Returns online and pay VAT electronically'.

Once you have requested online authorisation, HMRC will send your client a letter containing a unique authorisation code. The authorisation code will include the letters 'VT'.

It's important to let your client know they'll be receiving this letter and that they'll need to tell you the code. Your client must do this quickly as the code expires 30 days after HMRC issues it. You should then access your online agent account and enter the code to complete the authorisation. If you experience any difficulty, please check the code your client has provided before continuing. This will avoid any delay that may arise if you have to ask HMRC to issue another code online. If your client doesn't provide the code in time, you'll need to start the process again. You can use the service to check the status of online authorisations.

New VAT clients will normally appear on your client list for the VAT for Agents online service within 24 hours of you completing the authorisation process.

Once you're authorised to represent a client, HMRC will be able to deal with you direct on specific VAT matters. But they'll carry on sending letters about VAT to your client.

Log in to the VAT for Agents online service

Find out more about signing up for VAT for Agents

Paper authorisations for VAT

If your client doesn't submit VAT Returns online, or someone else already submits their return, you must complete paper form 64-8 if you want to deal with HMRC regarding their VAT affairs, either in writing or by phone.

Read more about this, and when other authorisation methods are appropriate for VAT by following the link below.

Using HMRC paper forms to apply for client authorisation

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VAT EU Refunds

When you enrol for the VAT for Agents service, HMRC will automatically provide the option to use the VAT EU Refunds for Agents service. Otherwise you must enrol for the VAT EU Refunds for Agents online service. When you do so HMRC will automatically provide the option to use the VAT for Agents service. But you'll need to set up your client list for each service separately.

If you're not VAT-registered in the UK yourself, you'll need to request a VAT agent reference number first. To do this, please follow the link on the ''What you will need to enrol' page during the enrolment process.

To complete the agent authorisation process you'll need your client's:

  • VAT registration number
  • principal place of business postcode
  • effective date of registration for VAT
  • final month of the last VAT Return submitted to HMRC
  • Box 5 figure on the last VAT Return submitted to HMRC - enter N/A if your client is new to VAT and has not previously submitted a return

You'll find these first three pieces of information on your client's Certificate of Registration and, if appropriate, the 'Notice to file VAT Returns online and pay VAT electronically'.

If your client's business is registered in the Isle of Man, they must contact the Isle of Man authorities to confirm the details you'll need to complete the VAT EU Refund for Agents online authorisation process.

Contact the Isle of Man Customs & Excise (Opens new window)

Once you have requested online authorisation, HMRC will send your client a letter containing a unique authorisation code. The authorisation code will include the letters 'VR'.

It's important to let your client know they'll be receiving this letter and that they'll need to tell you the code. Your client must do this quickly as the code expires 30 days after HMRC issues it. You should then access your online agent account and enter the code to complete the authorisation. If you experience any difficulty, please check the code your client has provided before continuing. This will avoid any delay that may arise if you have to ask HMRC to issue another code online.

New clients usually appear on your client list for the VAT EU Refunds for Agents online service within 24 hours of you completing the authorisation process.

Once you're authorised to represent a client, HMRC will be able to deal with you direct on specific VAT EU Refund matters. But they'll carry on sending letters about VAT EU Refunds to your client.

Multiple agent authorisation

The VAT EU Refunds for Agents online service offers your clients the option to set up multiple agent authorisations for one business.

This facility may be useful if, for example, your client wishes to appoint a different agent for each EU member state.

Sign up for the VAT EU Refunds for Agents online service

Log in to VAT online services for agents

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VAT EC Sales List and Reverse Charge Sales List

VAT-registered agents can use the EC Sales List (ECSL) and Reverse Charge Sales List (RCSL) online services to submit their clients' returns. Unfortunately this service is not currently available to non VAT-registered agents.

How to set up agent authorisation for the ECSL and RCSL online services

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Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA)

If you want to send a notification on behalf of a VAT-registered business using the Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) service, you must set up formal authorisation online. Before you can do this, you must have enrolled for the NOVA online service first.

If you're not VAT-registered in the UK yourself, you'll need to get a VAT agent reference number first. To do this, follow the link on the 'What you will need to enrol' page during the enrolment process for the NOVA online service.

To set up authorisation for your clients you need to:

  1. Log in to HMRC Online Services.
  2. Select the 'Authorise client' link from 'Your HMRC services'.
  3. Select 'Request authorisation' and follow the on-screen instructions.

You'll need your client's:

  • VAT registration number
  • principal place of business postcode
  • effective date of registration for VAT
  • final month of the last VAT Return submitted to HMRC
  • Box 5 figure on the last VAT Return submitted to HMRC - enter N/A if your client is new to VAT and has not previously submitted a return

You'll find the first three pieces of information on your client's Certificate of Registration and, if appropriate, the 'Notice to file VAT Returns online and pay VAT electronically'.

Once you have requested online authorisation, HMRC will send your client a letter containing a unique authorisation code within 7 days. The authorisation code will include the letters 'NV'.

It's important to let your client know they'll be receiving this letter and that they'll need to tell you the code. Your client should do this quickly as HMRC must be notified within 14 days of the vehicle being brought into the UK. The code will expire within 30 days from the date on the letter.

You should then log in to your online agent account and enter the code to complete the authorisation. If you have any problems, please check the code your client has provided before continuing. This will avoid any delay that may arise if you have to ask HMRC to send another code. If your client doesn't give you the code in time, you'll need to start the process again. You can use the online service to check the status of online authorisations.

New clients will normally appear on your client list for the NOVA online service within 24 hours of you completing the authorisation process.

You will then be entitled to act on your client's behalf online, by phone and in writing for matters relating to NOVA.

Multiple agent authorisation

The NOVA online service offers your clients the option to set up multiple agent authorisations for one business. This facility may be useful if, for example, they wish to appoint different agents for vehicles brought into the UK from inside and outside the EU.

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Managing and cancelling authorisations

You can manage your client list and remove clients using the relevant online service. Some changes can also be made by telephone and some must be made in writing.

Read more about managing and cancelling client authorisations

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Get help with HMRC Online Services

The online services pages of the HMRC website show how you can get help with any queries. You can download helpsheets, view demonstrations of the services and see the frequently asked questions.

You can also call or email the HMRC VAT Online Services Helpdesk for help with VAT Online.

Find out more about HMRC Online Services

How to contact the Online Services Helpdesk

How to contact the VAT Online Services Helpdesk

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Client authorisation using paper forms

The easiest way to manage your client authorisations is to use HMRC Online Services.

But there may be circumstances where online authorisation is not appropriate - for example if you want to deal with HMRC on behalf of an Income Tax client who does not submit a Self Assessment tax return.

Follow the link below to find out more about how your client can authorise you using paper forms 64-8 or FBI 2 and when another method is appropriate.

Using HMRC paper forms to apply for client authorisation

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More useful links

Get an overview of agent authorisation

How to register your client's business with HMRC

Get started with HMRC Online Services for agents

Taxes, allowances, tax credits and online filing for agents

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