HMRC Attempt To Cut Out Agents
There maybe a new trend of HMRC cutting out the tax professionals from investigations.
I first heard this issue raised last year by Andrew Gotch in his TaxAid talk; he said that he’d been working as a consultant with HMRC and he said that HMRC had wanted to bring in a policy that the people being investigated would become the first point of contact, even if they were represented by a tax agent.
Andrew assured HMRC that this would just slow down investigations because – after all – tax agents and HMRC all spoke the same language. Andrew Gotch went on to say that HMRC had (after his advice) decided to stay working with the agents – this may now not be the case.
In the last week, I’ve had two people come to me saying that even when they specifically instructed HMRC to go to the tax agent with all requests and queries they were still getting phone calls and letters.
Why is this important for people being investigated?
- Firstly, why get a dog and bark yourself? If you are paying for an agent, use them!
- Secondly, the tax agent is there to protect you. If you are being investigated and HMRC phone you up there is a strong chance that you will agree to what they suggest. For example, they might ask you to, “Come in for a chat.” And you think, Well that sounds reasonable. But that chat is not a chat at all, it’s an interview and once they get you sat down in their office for a few hours you may well regret it! More on HMRC interviews in point 2 here.
- Thirdly, many investigations become psychological wars where HMRC try to wear you down, see here. Your agent protects you from this but he can’t protect you if he is not the first point of contact.