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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/agent-and-client-statistics/hmrcs-agent-and-client-statistics
HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC’s) ‘Agent and Client Statistics’ (previously known as the ‘agent view’) will bring together information held on HMRC systems about agents and their clients’ filing, payment or compliance history. Working with agents, HMRC will use Agent and Client Statistics to target support at agents that need it to help their clients comply. It will also assist HMRC to identify and share good agent practice.
The majority of agents with well managed practices won’t be affected, as their clients’ compliance is likely to fall within the range HMRC would expect.
This guide provides the latest information on progress of Agent and Client Statistics.
1. Why Agent and Client Statistics is needed
A National Audit Office report expressed concern at the lack of information HMRC holds about agents and recommended that the department looks at ways to identify the minority of agents whose performance falls short of what might reasonably be expected.
2. How Agent and Client Statistics will work
HMRC aims to use Agent and Client Statistics to identify agents with clients whose filing, payment and compliance levels are significantly below what HMRC would expect. The aim is to improve standards and compliance by targeting HMRC’s support where it’s needed. HMRC recognises the concerns raised by agents and has agreed that this work will proceed at a slower pace than the other elements of Agents Strategy. The department has also made a commitment to the professional agent bodies through the Joint Tax Agent Strategy Steering Group that there will be full transparency and consultation.
3. What was involved in the pilot?
HMRC tested a proof of concept model of Agent and Client Statistics and agreed with the professional bodies to pilot agents who deal with Self Assessment.
3.1 Progress to date
HMRC selected over 30 agents (each with a minimum of 200 Self Assessment clients) where either less than:
- 80% of their clients submit returns on time
- 60% of their clients pay on time
Letters were issued and HMRC’s Agent Support Officers (experienced Agent Account Managers with extensive knowledge of working with tax agents and dealing with their issues) approached agents to arrange a meeting to explore why the ‘data’ about their clients suggested performance levels outside of normal expectations.
The meetings were voluntary and included discussions about improving compliance and exploring further opportunties for HMRC help and assistance. Participants were reassured that the meeting was not a compliance intervention. The pilot has been evaluated and HMRC will work closely with agent representative bodies to develop further pilots.
3.2 Summary of the evaluation
HMRC’s Agent Support Officers met with 15 agents to discuss the ‘data’ produced by the Agent and Client Statistics model. The key findings were:
- many of the agents visited demonstrated good practice including keeping clients informed of tax liabilities and due dates for payment
- the pilot provided further new insights into agent and client behaviour
- the evidence gathered from the pilot was inconclusive as a test of the benefits and reliability of Agent and Client Statistics
It was recommended that:
- the full evaluation should be discussed with agent representative bodies to determine how Agent and Client Statistics should be progressed to 2015
- no further Self Assessment pilot work should take place until the reliability of the data is verified
- HMRC should consider a Corporation Tax filing and payment pilot
- HMRC to do further work to understand the potential link between a client’s compliance and that of their agent
3.4 Next steps
A second pilot involving agents with CIS repayment clients started in October 2013 to test the use of a checklist and guidance material developed with the professional bodies.
HMRC will then apply the learning from all of the pilots to inform future support and education activity.