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Finance Act 2012

Background Note

60.Tax agents play a crucial role in the delivery of the UK tax system.  HMRC is able to accept the majority of returns without checking their accuracy individually because of the work done by taxpayers and their agents to ensure those returns are correct.

61.But there are a small number of tax agents who are prepared to act dishonestly and whose actions can affect a larger group of taxpayers. HMRC needs to be able to deter and penalise this behaviour. It also needs to identify the scale of the dishonesty in order to be able to put matters right. This requires HMRC to be able to access the working papers of the dishonest agent to check and correct their clients’ returns as appropriate.

62.HMRC has existing powers in respect of agents in sections 99 and 20A of TMA, but these apply only to direct tax and do not work as intended. This provision modernises the existing law, extends it to other taxes and

  • duties and allows HMRC to publish details on its website of dishonest tax agents who are penalised and fail to fully disclose their dishonesty.

63.HMRC has consulted three times on how it should engage with tax agents to raise professional standards. Working with Tax Agents was published in April 2009. Working with Tax Agents: the next stage was published in December 2009 together with draft legislation in February 2010. Revised legislation was published with a discussion document Working with Tax Agents: Dishonest Conduct on 14 July 2011. Draft legislation was also published for comment on 6 December 2011.

64.The measure will be brought into effect by Treasury Order, not expected to be before 1 April 2013.

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