HMRC discussions – prototype of new agent services setup screens

I spent over an hour at the end of June discussing a prototype HMRC have been developing for their web services. It turned out to be a discussion on creating a new “agent services account” for signing up and migrating clients to MTD.

This was to look at improvements and new features that may be added.

Surely this is 6 months too late was my first observation – the majority of agents will have signed up by now and almost certainly all would be signed up by the time this new frontend went “live”. Yes, there will be new agents setting up in the future and it may certainly be a lot smoother than many “journeys” undertaken by agents in recent months. However, should this area be the prime focus?

 From Meetings I have attended regarding MTD, the lack of visibility of the clients in the new agent services account has been a huge gripe. There may be others discussing new prototypes in this and other areas – I don’t know. But there are developments in hand apparently.

The process involved taking control of the mouse and keyboard and clicking through the various questions and selecting answers.

We raised various concerns during the process both as regards practicalities and some of the information requested in the setup process. It asks what type of business you are (as an agent). We selected “partnership” and some information was then requested e.g. UTR. But we were then asked for a national insurance number! In a small partnership in one office this may not be a problem, but in a multi-office national partnership with dozens of partners, how does everyone know who is the responsible person? And does he want to share his national insurance number and other personal information e.g. passport number and expiry date across the firm? (This information needs to be input in other HMRC authorisations currently). Fine for a one-man band – not thought through properly for everyone else?  I did raise this at a meeting with HMRC and the response was that a named individual “responsible person” in a business was needed in case it was ever necessary to come and kick a door down!

It then asked about money laundering and registration. Are you regulated by HMRC or another body? and then asks for the renewal date – specifically date/month and year. If you are a member of a professional body, surely the registration number of the firm with that body is sufficient? What is the renewal date asked for?

There were some new screens to link data from the old gateway to the new gateway. In the prototype the screen offered 36 clients to link and when linked, it said 36 clients processed. Was this useful? I have no idea how many clients we might have in the old gateway – and does it really matter, as long as they all came across?

There was an ability to link another gateway which is useful – but there is no way of telling which gateways have been linked. If you had 20 offices each with a separate gateway login before, you cannot easily tell which ones have been processed and which ones still need to be linked.

I was really surprised that some of the points we raised had apparently not been made before! I don’t know how much, if any, will be taken on board in due course, and will be unlikely to know too as our agent services account has already been created!

How have you found using the existing screens?