Agent authorisation to deal with HMRC

Find out about agent authorisation to deal with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), including what it means and how to apply.

If you act as a tax agent or adviser, you must have formal authorisation to deal with HMRC on your client’s behalf.

The easiest way to do this is online. You and your client can set up the authorisation securely by using HMRC Online Services.

You’ll need an agent code or reference number from HMRC for each type of agent authorisation. Make sure you have this before you start to set up authorisation online.

If you choose not to use HMRC Online Services, you can ask your client to complete the appropriate paper authorisation forms.

How to set up agent authorisation

You’ll need to register as an agent in HMRC Online Services and enrol for each service you need to use.

Once you’ve done that, your clients can authorise you to act on their behalf for each service.

The services are:

You can also register for the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings online service.

Once you’re authorised, you can use HMRC Online Services to:

  • manage your client lists
  • file returns
  • update a client’s details
  • receive information about your client from HMRC

You can also contact HMRC by phone or post on behalf of your client.

You or your clients can use software to send Income Tax updates as part of HMRC’s Making Tax Digital pilot.

Agent codes and reference numbers

Agent codes

You must have an agent code before you can set up agent authorisation for:

If you need to arrange authorisations for more than one of these, you’ll need to apply for separate codes for each type.

You’ll need your code for both online and paper authorisations.

VAT agent reference numbers

If you’re VAT registered you’ll need to use your VAT number to set up agent authorisation for:

  • VAT - to submit VAT returns and change clients’ registration details
  • VAT EU Refunds
  • Notification of Vehicle Arrivals
  • VAT Mini One Stop Shop

If you’re not VAT-registered, you’ll need to apply for a VAT agent reference number before you can set up authorisation.

Agent reference numbers

You need an agent reference number for:

  • Machine Games Duty for agents
  • Gambling Tax for agents

You’ll get your agent reference for these as part of the enrolment process for each service.

When you need to use your agent code or reference number

Your agent code or reference number is specific to you as an agent, and the type of authorisation. You don’t need a separate code for each client.

For example, if you have a Self Assessment agent code you must quote that code on authorisations for each Self Assessment client.

Online administrators and assistants

The first person to set up your agent online account will automatically be set as an ‘administrator’.

The administrator can set up other administrators or assistants on your agent account by logging into the Government Gateway and choosing ‘add an administrator’ or ‘add an assistant’.

You can use this to manage your client lists and split work across your organisation, for example you can set up more than one client list and allocate them to different administrators or assistants.

What administrators can do

Administrators can perform tasks online on behalf of your organisation. They can:

  • access an online service your organisation is enrolled for
  • enrol for and de-enrol from online services
  • set up or delete other administrators
  • set up or delete online assistants
  • assign services to other administrators or assistants
  • change their own registration details - password, user name or email address

What assistants can do

Assistants must be set up by your organisation’s administrators. They can only access services assigned to them by an administrator.

Assistants can:

  • access an online service your organisation is enrolled for - if an administrator has assigned the service to them
  • change their own registration details - password, user name or email address

How to change or cancel authorisations

You can make most changes to your agent authorisations online or by phone, however some changes must be made in writing.

Changes you can make online

You can use your HMRC Online Services account to:

  • manage your client lists - view, download or update
  • remove a client that you no longer act for - you’ll need to do this separately for each online service
  • update your contact details - for example, your firm’s email address or phone number

Once you remove a client from your online account, you won’t have access to any of their data. Make sure you take copies of anything you’ve submitted online for that client before you remove them from your client list.

Changes you can make by phone

You can call the Agent Dedicated Line to let HMRC know:

  • you no longer acting for a client
  • about changes to some client details
  • about changes to your agent details - for PAYE for employers

You’ll be asked some security questions to check your identity and you’ll need to provide your client’s name and reference number, for example, National Insurance number or Unique Taxpayer Reference.

Changes you must make in writing

You must write to the Central Agent Authorisation Team to tell HMRC about changes to your:

  • business name
  • business address
  • trading status as an agent - for example, if you stop trading as an agent or your firm merges with another agent

If you stop trading as an agent HMRC will cancel any agent codes or reference numbers you have. You’ll need to apply for new ones if you start trading as an agent again.

You don’t need to send this information in writing for:

  • PAYE for employers - you can make changes to your agent record online or by phone
  • VAT and VAT EU Refunds - you can make the changes online
  • High Income Child Benefit - your client needs to tell the Child Benefit Office about any changes to your business details
Published 1 January 2014
Last updated 7 February 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated to include link to new 'Register for the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings online service' guidance.
  2. Agent authorisation guidance has been updated to improve style and layout of content.
  3. The address agents apply to, to obtain an agent code for Self Assessment and Corporation Tax has changed.
  4. First published.