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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Agent operational guidance: the role of agents: who are agents

‘Agent’ is a broad term used to describe an authorised third party acting on behalf of an HMRC customer.

Though the term is usually applied to professional advisers, in particular accountants, agents can also be bookkeepers, relatives, friends and so on. An agent is anyone who has written authority to act on behalf of our customer and deal with HMRC.

In much of this guidance we use the broad term ‘agent’. However, when we talk about dishonest conduct by a tax agent we mean something specific. A ‘tax agent’ is defined at CH180180 and operational guidance about dishonest tax agents starts at CH880000.

As of May 2009 research indicated there were approximately 43,000 practising agent firms in the UK serving 8m HMRC customers split roughly 50:50 between businesses and individuals.

Around 80% of paid agents have a professional qualification and 70% of firms in practice are members of a professional body.

Up to 80,000 agents from the voluntary sector and friends and family are authorised to act on behalf of individuals (and micro-businesses) in an unpaid, and often temporary, capacity.

Over 70% of Small and Medium Enterprises use an agent for some or all of their tax affairs, and in the corporate sector this is nearly 100%.

HMRC’s Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (AMLS) is responsible for supervising Accountancy Service Providers (ASP) under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007. ASPs include agents not affiliated to a professional body. As of October 2012 there are over 11,000 ASPs registered with HMRC.

Details about who should be registered as an ASP are in the Registration Guide for Accountancy Service Providers (HMRC website). (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000) MLR Risk Targeting Team(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)  ML, NIU (RIS) (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)