ICAS welcomes HMRC’s updated standard for agents, but continues to call for regulation

ICAS welcomes HMRC’s updated standard for agents, but continues to call for regulation

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) has welcomed the announcement of new measures to protect consumers who use tax repayment agents and the publication of an updated HMRC standard for agents.

This follows a consultation last year.

Preventing the use of assignments for income tax repayments should help to prevent some of the worst abuses identified in the 2022 consultation. ICAS is also pleased to see the detailed transparency requirements in HMRC’s updated standard for agents.

However, ICAS is disappointed that it is unclear whether the registration requirement for repayment agents will be as robust as that for other agents. We need to see the promised further detail on this from HMRC.

Susan Cattell, ICAS head of tax technical policy, said: “We welcome the measures announced today to protect consumers using repayment agents and the issue of an updated and expanded version of HMRC’s standard for agents.

“However, in the long term, we feel the only fully, effective way to protect consumers (both those claiming repayments but also those using tax agents for other reasons), is to introduce a requirement that anyone acting as a tax agent should be qualified, and should belong to one of the main professional bodies that subscribe to, and enforce Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation.

“This could take time to implement. In the meantime, it’s essential that HMRC’s standards for agents closely match those that professional body members are required to meet, and that HMRC rigorously enforces its standards. The updated and expanded HMRC standard for agents is very helpful, but it’s not clear if HMRC will step up enforcement against those who fail to comply.”

Charlotte Barbour, ICAS director of regulatory authorisations, added: “We are pleased that the revised HMRC standard for agents is a very clear statement of what HMRC expects from tax agents and that it now includes detailed transparency requirements.

“Part of being a member of a professional body is about achieving, and maintaining, standards – both technical and professional. When it comes to tax, there has long been professional body guidance Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT), which sets out the fundamental principles and standards of behaviours that all members, affiliates and students must follow. PCRT is an important part of maintaining professional standards.

“As the HMRC standard for agents makes clear, HMRC endorses PCRT and continues to work with professional bodies to align standards for agents and how they are enforced. We welcome the expansion of HMRC’s standard, bringing it into closer alignment with PCRT.”

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