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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Agent operational guidance: the role of agents: HMRC's relationship with agents

HMRC recognises the vital role that agents play in the delivery of the UK tax and benefit system, which could not function without them. We expect from agents the same high degree of professionalism and competence that agents expect from us.

The overwhelming majority of agents are well qualified, technically able and competent in the role they undertake for their clients. However, a small minority of agents fall below the high professional standards expected by the agents’ professional bodies and their clients could reasonably expect.

The standards of conduct and behaviour you should reasonably expect to see in a professional relationship should be high. You need to ensure if you come across instances of poor agent behaviour you handle them in a fair, consistent, measured and proportionate way. In the first instance you should consider whether a referral (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) is appropriate, see CH860000.

Agent professional bodies each set out in detail their individual standards and a number have jointly produced a guide ‘Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation’ which sets out the standards to be followed by their members when dealing with HMRC in connection with a client’s tax affairs. You can find this guide on the internet.

You must work to equally high standards having regard to the commitments made in HMRC’s Charter (HMRC website) statement.

HMRC expects its people to be professional and beyond reproach when dealing with agents. You must be courteous and reasonable in what, at times, can be difficult circumstances. This means listening to agents and understanding their

  • abilities
  • knowledge
  • needs
  • motives.

Each time you have contact with an agent you have the opportunity to influence (positively or negatively) HMRC’s relationship with the agent. Some agents may seem to be less helpful than you would wish. It is important to find out why this is. What you might at first regard as a lack of cooperation might be because the agent is waiting for the client to

  • give the agent instructions
  • provide the agent with the information you have asked for
  • pay for previous work done.

Once you know the reason for the agent’s apparent lack of cooperation you may be in a better position to help them by, for example, using your information powers under FA08/SCH36.