Find out about agent authorisation to deal with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), including what it means and how to apply.
As a tax agent or adviser, you must be formally authorised by an individual or business to deal with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on their behalf. HMRC is not able to send information or talk to you about your client without this formal authorisation.
The easiest way to arrange formal authorisation 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.
If you choose not to use HMRC Online Services, you can ask your client to complete the appropriate paper authorisation forms.
When you can act as an agent
An agent is someone who a client appoints to discuss, correspond or transact with HMRC on their behalf. This can be, for example, an accountant or a professional tax adviser.
Your client must give you the authority to act on their behalf before you can deal with HMRC for them. Once your client has done this, you can:
- talk to HMRC about your client and exchange information with them
- send and receive letters, forms or returns about your client’s tax affairs
Being authorised as an agent won’t transfer any of your client’s legal obligations to you.
Agent codes and reference numbers
You must have an agent code before you can set up agent authorisation for:
- Self Assessment - apply in writing
- Corporation Tax - apply in writing
- PAYE/CIS for employers clients - apply in writing
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.
It’s easiest set up agent authorisation online, you can do this for:
- Self Assessment for Agents
- Corporation Tax for Agents
- PAYE for Agents - for PAYE for employers and Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)
- VAT for Agents - to submit clients’ VAT returns and manage their VAT records
- VAT EU Refunds for Agents
- VAT EC Sales List and Reverse Charge Sales List
- VAT Mini One Stop Shop for Agents
- Notification of Vehicle Arrivals
- Machine Games Duty for Agents
- Gambling Tax for Agents
You can’t set up authorisation online for:
- tax credits clients
- individuals who aren’t within Self Assessment
- Self Assessment clients who have a British Forces Post Office address
You’ll need to use HMRC’s paper authorisation forms for these clients.
If you can’t set up authorisation online, or choose not to, you’ll need to get your client to complete HMRC’s paper authorisation forms. These can be used for:
- individual, partnership and trust tax affairs
- High Income Child Benefit charge
- tax credits
- Corporation Tax
- PAYE for employers
- CIS for contractors
- the PAYE for Agents online service - your client can complete a paper form to set up your agent authorisation, but it’s easier to use the online service to do this
How to change or cancel authorisations
You can make most changes to your agent authorisations online or by phone, there are also some changes that 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 (UTR).
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
Updated: 7 February 2017
- Updated to include link to new 'Register for the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings online service' guidance.
- Agent authorisation guidance has been updated to improve style and layout of content.
- The address agents apply to, to obtain an agent code for Self Assessment and Corporation Tax has changed.
- First published.