Multiple copies of HMRC logo and letterhead

Changes to VAT agent authorisation

2 February, 2024

HMRC is removing 'VAT for Agents' from the Online Agent Authorisation (OAA) service.  From 16 February 2024, agents who wish to be authorised to represent their clients for VAT must do so in the agent services account (ASA). This process is known as a 'digital handshake'.  

On the same day, HMRC will remove the ability to copy across to the ASA any 'VAT for agents' authorisations generated via the OAA. 

What to do now

You should use the ASA for all VAT authorisations from now on. If you already use the ASA for all VAT authorisations, you will see no change and do not need to take any further action. 

If you currently use 'VAT for Agents' in OAA you must stop doing so as soon as possible, as from 16 February 2024 the service will be removed . This means that you will no longer be able to use the 'VAT for Agents' service in OAA to seek authorisation to represent clients or copy across your relationship to your ASA.  

Any 'VAT for Agents' authorisation codes generated in the OAA service before 16 February 2024 must be used before 18 March 2024. 

If you have already used the OAA to get authorisation to represent a client for VAT but have not copied your client across to your ASA by 16 February 2024, you may need to complete a digital handshake to continue to act for them. 

These changes apply to both advisory agents and agents filing VAT returns. 

Authorisation in the ASA

For new VAT authorisations completed on the ASA, your clients must use the web link you send them to complete a digital handshake. Clients must have a Government Gateway ID to do this. 

Your clients must complete their part of the digital handshake within 21 days of you receiving the link. After 21 days, the link will expire, and you will need to begin the process again to generate a new link. HMRC will not send any links or codes directly to your clients when you seek authorisation to represent them. 


HMRC have provided the following FAQs in connection with this change:

Q. How can I get authorisations for my VAT clients? 

A. You must use an agent services account and complete a 'digital handshake'. When you do this, your agent services account will generate a unique web link that allows your client to complete their part of the 'digital handshake'. It is your responsibility to copy the link and send it to your client. Your client must complete their part of the 'digital handshake' within 21 days of the date that you received the link from HMRC. If they fail to do so – and you still want to be authorised to represent them – then you must start the digital handshake process again, using the agent services account. 

Q. How can I view legacy returns? 

A. You will still be able to access your VAT legacy account to see clients for which you’re already authorised. 

Q. As an overseas agent, how will I get authorisations for VAT clients? 

A. Overseas agents must follow the same 'digital handshake' process as UK-based agents. You will need an agent services account to do this. Agents based outside the UK must apply for an agent services account in writing. There is more information about how to do so on GOV.UK. 

Q. I don’t have an agent services account. How do I get one? 

A. To create an agent services account, you must first register with HMRC as a tax agent

If you’re already registered with HMRC, you will need to ensure that you have an agent services account

If you already have a HMRC online services accounts and have at least one authorised client (for Self Assessment, Corporation Tax, PAYE or VAT), you can immediately create an agent services account. 

Q. I don’t have an agent reference number (ARN). How do I get one? 

A. If you do not have an ARN you can get one by creating an agent services account. You must be registered with HMRC to set up an account. 

Q. How long will it take to get an agent reference number? 

A. When you set up an agent services account you will automatically be provided with an agent reference number. This will appear on screen as soon as you complete the process of setting up your account. It will also appear at the top of the agent services account page whenever you sign in. 

Please keep a note of this number – you will need it whenever you contact HMRC about your agent services account. 

Q. Will OAA still be available for other services? 

A. Yes. The OAA service will still be available after 16 February 2024 for:

  • VAT EU refunds
  • notification of vehicle arrivals
  • VAT One Stop Shop
  • other legacy account services which have not migrated to the agent services account. 

Q. How can I get help on how to use ASA and the digital handshake? 

A. There’s help available on the agent services account on GOV.UK. 

There’s help available on GOV.UK on how agents can use the digital handshake

Q. I am struggling with the new digital processes how do I get support? 

A. If you are struggling to use online services, and can’t find the information you need online, you can get help using VAT online services

Q. How can my clients get a Government Gateway ID? 

A. There are 3 types of account: 

  • individual accounts 
  • organisation accounts 
  • accounts for agents 

More information on how your clients can register for a Government Gateway account is on GOV.UK. 

Q. How can my clients get help with the 'digital handshake' process on Government Gateway? 

A. Your clients can access information on GOV.UK on how to use the 'digital handshake' for authorising a tax agent.

Q. Some of my clients cannot use a computer. How can they authorise me for VAT? 

A. Help is available at get help using VAT online services

Q. Can I use the HMRC app for VAT authorisation? 

A. No, your clients are not able to complete a 'digital handshake' in the HMRC app currently. 

Q. Why haven’t you given us more notice of this change? 

A. HMRC has previously notified stakeholders that this change is coming, both as part of our regular engagement with agents and their representative bodies, and through the monthly Agent Update. Feedback received has been positive. With this in mind, and the fact that most agents already opt to use the agent services account to get authorisation to transact for VAT clients, we’ve taken the decision to remove the VAT for Agents Service in OAA ahead of the start of the 2024 to 2025 year.