ATT responses to HMRC consultation on raising standards in the tax advice market

30 May, 2024

The ATT has responded to the HMRC consultation document ‘Raising standards in the tax advice market’ (‘the Consultation’) which was issued on 6 March 2024.

The Consultation discusses the Government’s intention to raise standards in the tax advice market through a strengthened regulatory framework. It explores approaches to strengthen the controls on access to HMRC’s services for tax practitioners. The Consultation also sets out the 3 possible approaches to strengthening the framework: mandatory membership of a recognised professional body, joint HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – industry enforcement, and regulation by a separate statutory government body.

In the ATT's response, we said:

Mandatory Registration to interact with HMRC

We agreed that a good first step towards a strengthened regulatory framework would be for all those tax practitioners operating in a professional capacity to undertake mandatory registration to interact with HMRC. Registration would allow HMRC to ensure that an individual practitioner or firm meets the standards required and stop tax practitioners who do not meet these standards from gaining access to HMRC systems and taxpayer information.

We welcome the proposed introduction of ‘a single agent registration service’ to facilitate this process and recommended that HMRC prioritises its creation and design. We said that once designed, HMRC should provide clarity on the requirements necessary for registration, support tax practitioners/agents to meet those standards and provide well communicated and sign-posted guidance.

We considered that the information required from practitioners to register should be sufficient to identify that minimum registration standards are being met, but not be over-burdensome.

Access to the service should be quick, easy, and efficient.

Mandatory membership of a Recognised Professional Body (‘RPB’)

In principle we support the mandatory membership of an RPB, but consider that there are many elements of that approach that would need further consideration and consultation before it could be fully adopted and implemented.

We believe that it is essential that any proposed regulatory oversight creates a level playing field for all those tax practitioners providing tax advice to the public, and that we can see no justification for there being any exclusions.

We consider that regulation at firm level is the most appropriate and workable model, whilst recognising that there will always be a place for professional standards requirements to be placed on all individual RPB members working within firms.

We think that it would be useful to consider the merits of a public register of tax agents. If inclusion on the register was mandatory, it would enable a consumer to check very easily whether the identity of an adviser was known to HMRC.