Association backs mandatory membership of professional bodies but warns of “profound impact” on agents

31 May, 2024

Mandatory membership of a professional body is a “good first step” towards improving regulation of the tax advice market, says the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), but HMRC must be mindful of the “profound impact” this could have on some tax practitioners.

The Association responded1 this week to a HMRC consultation2 on the issue, which asks whether there should be a mandatory requirement for tax practitioners to register with the tax authority in order to access HMRC systems, as well as looking at raising the standards in the tax advice market through regulation by either:

  • Mandatory membership of a recognised professional body (RPB)
  • A hybrid option of RPB regulation of their members, with HMRC regulating non-member tax advisers
  • Regulation by an independent statutory government body

Of the options being proposed, the ATT prefers the first, but warned the approach would need further consideration and consultation before it could be fully adopted and implemented.

Senga Prior, chair of the ATT’s technical steering group, said:

“Requiring all tax practitioners to register with HMRC is a good first step towards a strengthened regulatory framework. This would allow HMRC to ensure that individuals and firms meet the registration standards required and prevent those that don’t from gaining access to HMRC systems and taxpayer information.

“However, the changes this consultation envisages could profoundly impact the ability for some tax practitioners to legitimately remain within the tax advice market, as those currently unaffiliated with a RPB will have to take up membership of a professional body, which often incurs extra financial and time costs. For this reason, the Government and HMRC must be clear what the problems in the tax market are that the proposals are seeking to address and understand who is perpetrating them.

“We support mandatory membership of an RPB and consider this to be the most workable solution to raise standards in the tax advice market.

“Any policy must also consider the criteria for recognition as a RPB and how current professional bodies such as the ATT would be assessed against those criteria. Furthermore, any changes to the regulatory framework must be designed to ensure that they fully address the minority of people responsible for unprofessional behaviour who are at the heart of poor standards and public mistrust and might otherwise remain outside effective regulation.

“Only by fully understanding the problems and the perpetrators can successful solutions be designed and built to both raise tax standards within the tax advice market and increase public trust in the tax profession.”

Notes for editors:

  1. ATT response to the HMRC consultation.
  2. HMRC consultation: Raising standards in the tax advice market.