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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Debt and return pursuit: CIS: CIS agents

In CIS there are two main types of agent; a:

  • Customer Level Agent (CLA), that is an agent with the subcontractor’s or contractor’s authority to act for them in their Self Assessment (SA) or Corporation Tax (COTAX) affairs, who the customer also wants to act for them in CIS
  • Scheme Specific Agent, that is an agent who acts only for a contractor in respect of a specific CIS scheme. Scheme Specific Agents operate on a scheme-by-scheme basis and their authority is restricted to CIS. They are authorised to act by paper or internet or by internet only. They are often payroll firms rather than accountancy practices. Details of the Scheme Specific Agent are stored in CIS and can only be viewed there.

Customer Level Agent

When registering for CIS the customer will be asked to confirm their agent’s details and say whether they want them to act on their behalf.

In the Register Subcontractor screen, if the customer:

  • does want the agent to act, the ‘Yes’ radio button will remain selected; as a result, the Inherit Agent indicator in SA/CT Agent Details on CIS will be set to ‘Yes’ and the agent will be able to deal with all the customer’s CIS businesses
  • doesn’t want the agent to act, the ‘No’ radio button must be selected and the Inherit Agent indicator on the CIS record will be set to ‘No’; doing this will mean that if the customer has more than one CIS business their SA/COTAX authorised agent will not be able to deal with any of them.

If a customer changes their mind about using their SA/COTAX agent after registering for CIS, the customer or their agent must either:

  • phone the CIS helpline
  • write to the CIS Subcontractor Registration Team at NICO.

A customer can’t choose a different CLA for CIS. But they can choose whether to have their CLA represent them in their CIS business affairs.

To have an agent act for them in CIS a customer must have already authorised an agent to act for them in SA/COTAX. The customer can then tell us that they also wish that agent to act for them in CIS.


Scheme Specific Agents

A contractor can specify a Scheme Specific Agent that is different to their Customer level Agent. If no Scheme Specific Agent is appointed, then the system assumes that the CLA is acting, if there is one. By contrast, a CLA cannot ever act for a contractor in connection with a specific scheme where a Scheme Specific Agent has been appointed. So, for example, a contractor might operate four different Construction Industry Schemes but only have a Scheme Specific Agent for one of these. The CLA would therefore act for the remaining three but not for the scheme where a Scheme Specific Agent has been appointed.

A Scheme Specific Agent can be either:

  • fully authorised to act by paper.
  • fully authorised to act by Internet.
  • authorised to act by internet only.

See CISR19050 for more information.

Important: You must not discuss any other heads of duty with a Scheme Specific Agent and you must only discuss the specific scheme that they hold full authorisation for. Scheme Specific Agents act on behalf of the contractor on a scheme-by-scheme basis. So, where the contractor is operating more than one construction industry scheme, it does not necessarily follow that a Scheme Specific Agent has the authority to act in relation to all of those schemes. The contractor may have appointed different Scheme Specific Agents for different schemes or may have a Scheme Specific Agent for some and a Customer Level Agent (CLA) for others (or indeed no agent or any combination of these).

Before discussing or corresponding with a Scheme Specific Agent regarding CIS debt you must:

  • confirm which of the contractor’s schemes the debt relates to
  • whether they have been fully authorised to act for that particular scheme
  • remember the Scheme Specific Agent’s authority is restricted to CIS matters, so you cannot discuss other tax debts with this type of agent.

Authenticate the agent

Authentication is necessary when speaking to a customer in face to face contact, or during a telephone call to ensure that the person you are speaking to is the customer concerned or is someone authorised to act on their behalf. To authenticate a customer/agent:

  • open the CIS system to obtain the Identify Customer window
  • enter the Customer reference, UTR or NINO, AO ref., or Employer reference in the relevant field
  • select a ‘contact type’ from the available selection in the drop-down menu
  • select a ‘channel type’ from the available selection in the drop-down menu
  • select the [OK] button; this will open the Authenticate Customer window.

The Authenticate Customer window is divided into three panels: mandatory, secure and additional. You must enter two entries in the mandatory section, plus three more entries with at least one being in the secure panel. If, however, you have selected Agent or Capacitor as the ‘contact type’ a further panel - Agent Details will be displayed. A further two out of three questions must then be satisfied on the same window before you can continue.

You should then proceed to authenticate the customer recording the answers given as either a pass or fail using the radio buttons on the window, finally selecting the [OK] button. This will then open the CIS Main Menu window.

Viewing an agents details

To view an agent’s details, from the CIS main menu:

  • enter window ‘View Customer’, then
  • select the ‘Agent Details’ tab in the top menu bar.

If there is a Scheme Specific Agent they will be listed there.

If there is just a Customer Level Agent on the record it will show in red at the top of the page and you need to:

  • click on the Designatory Details button and then
  • select the ‘Agent Details’ tab in the top menu bar.

See CISR19610 for more information.

Additional guidance

For additional guidance, see:

  • DMBM511900 - Contact with third parties; agents and accountants.
  • DMBM511626 - Contact with third parties: how to handle correspondence from third parties: confirming there is valid authority for all HoD cases except tax credits.
  • DMBM512800 - Compulsory verification checks.