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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Agent operational guidance: poor agent behaviour: agent's behaviour, although legal, gives HMRC cause for concern: introduction

HMRC has done much to improve its relationship with agents. In particular, agents have welcomed our greater openness and transparency about risks we identify and our willingness to enter into early dialogue. They generally accept that this more collaborative approach enables us to focus our enquiries and target our requests for documents and information on the risks presented by their clients. They appreciate that this approach has the potential to shorten our checks and to reduce the burden on their clients.

Some agents may be less helpful than we would wish and a few may seem to deliberately obstruct our enquiries, especially if they do not believe we are being reasonable and proportionate in our approach.

The following links present some examples of where you might come across obstructive behaviours

  • at a meeting, see CH840200
  • when you request a meeting, see CH840300
  • when you ask for information, see CH840400
  • when the progress of your check is delayed, see CH840500.

These pages will give you reasons why the agent may be behaving in such a way and suggest how you can respond to the agent’s behaviour.

When you identify shortcomings in the agent’s performance you must first try to discuss your concerns directly with them to identify problem areas, determine the extent, and establish what is needed to remedy the situation. You should

  • take a balanced and sensible view of the agent’s behaviour, considering it in the context of your case, the agent’s overall attitude and whether the behaviour is persistently unreasonable. What may be unacceptable behaviour in one case may not be in another
  • consider your own behaviour to ensure that you are acting reasonably and proportionately, particularly when you are asking for information during a compliance check.

If the agent’s behaviour could affect penalty reductions for disclosure, see CH871000.

In any case where the agent’s behaviour gives you cause for concern, whether because you

  • have identified poor technical ability
  • have encountered rude, abusive, threatening or violent behaviour
  • suspect suspicious repayment or registration activity
  • suspect dishonest conduct

you must contact the Agent Compliance Team (ACT), see CH860000.