Throughout the Single Compliance Process (SCP) trial, HMRC has engaged with agent representative bodies through a sub-group of the Compliance Reform Forum - set up specifically for that purpose.
The sub-group has been very supportive of HMRC's aims for the SCP, and has given a helpful perspective of the compliance check from both the customer and agent’s point of view. However, the group was concerned about HMRC's opening approach for Corporation Tax and Income Tax interventions - which was to contact the customer directly, even where there is authorisation in place for an agent to act on their behalf.
HMRC has now agreed with the agent representative bodies to change this approach for Corporation Tax and Income Tax compliance checks across all small and medium enterprise cases. The opening letter will give the customer 7 days to tell HMRC if they wish to deal directly with the department. If the customer doesn't reply, HMRC will contact the agent by phone within 14 days to progress the case. If contact or progress can't be made, then HMRC will go back to the customer.
HMRC has agreed that this approach is in line with their charter - in that the department will seek to keep customers' costs to a minimum, and accept that someone else can represent them.
Work is now ongoing to update guidance and revise the letters, and a further update will be issued when this work has finished.