A regular theme of recent HMRC publications, and in response to open letters from professional bodies regarding the poor quality service being provided, has been to point to the digital services and help that is available online via www.hmrc.gov.uk.
An example of this is a letter from Victoria Atkins MP to a group of professional bodies (including the Chartered Institute of Taxation) regarding service levels. It is clear from this letter that HMRC are encouraging taxpayers to utilise online services to assist with reducing the level of phone calls and letters that HMRC have to respond to:
“The key to reducing waiting times for customers and improving customer satisfaction even further is offering an easy and simple online service – one where it is much easier to go digital than to telephone or write to HMRC.
HMRC are investing in high quality digital services that will help taxpayers get things right first time. This includes Single Customer Accounts that will eventually enable over 45 million taxpayers to view all their tax affairs in one place and complete everyday tasks, potentially reducing customer contact by telephone and post by 30 per cent.”
Whilst it remains to be seen what the actual reduction in phone and letter correspondence will be, it is inevitable that more complex queries will continue to have to be dealt with ‘offline’, and if the ‘online’ service is not satisfactory, the benefits may well be limited.
The Government Gateway is an IT system that was developed to register for online services provided by the UK Government, such as obtaining a driving licence and HMRC self-assessment filings. This replaced the old system of paper submissions.
Whilst HMRC currently uses the Government Gateway to allow users to access their HMRC accounts, it is expected that there will be a transfer to the new One Login for Government system, being developed by Government Digital Service (“GDS”) – the Single Customer Account, as noted above.
Despite this transfer, we would recommend that all clients, if not already in place, ensure that they have a Government Gateway account for both themselves personally, as well as any entity that they control (including partnerships, limited companies and trusts).
The main benefits of having a Government Gateway setup, and with the relevant services added, include:
- Being able to review the current status of accounts that you or your business hold with HMRC, such as Self-Assessment, PAYE, VAT and Corporation Tax. This avoids having to either call HMRC for an update and being kept on hold, or contacting our office, where we may not be able to get back to you for a few days. It also means that you can check if payments have been allocated correctly, or if payments are missing/not paid on time.
- Being able to easily provide an agent with authority to speak to HMRC on your behalf, and for an agent to obtain agent access to a particular account, avoids having to use the more long-winded agent access requests which often include access codes being sent by post or having to sign/scan paper documents, in some circumstances.
- Being able to set up new services or accounts where HMRC do not currently let agents set this up on your behalf (examples of this include Employment Related Securities schemes and a Capital Gains Tax on UK property account). Where filing deadlines are short, and agents are not able to set up services on behalf of a client, the extra delay in setting up a Government Gateway account and then setting up a service can result in returns being filed late, and late filing penalties being charged.
- Whilst agents, when access is provided, can see the relevant services for a client, agent access is very limited when compared to the client’s own access to their services. This is especially relevant for the Personal Tax Account, where an agent’s access is limited to certain Self-Assessment sections only.
Setting up a Government Gateway account
To set up a Government Gateway account, you will first need to prove your identity.
You’ll need your National Insurance number or postcode and 2 of the following:
- a valid UK passport
- a UK photocard driving licence issued by the DVLA (or DVA in Northern Ireland)
- a payslip from the last 3 months or a P60 from your employer for the last tax year
- details of a tax credit claim if you made one
- details from a Self-Assessment tax return if you made one
- information held on your credit record if you have one (such as loans, credit cards or mortgages)
To set up a Government Gateway account, you should start by following this link https://www.access.service.gov.uk/registration/email
Adding services to your Government Gateway account
Once you have created your Government Gateway account, you can then proceed to add services to the account. The services to add will depend on whether the Government Gateway will be used for you personally, or as a business account. A summary of the main three account, and options for adding individual services are summarised below.
Personal Tax Account
The Personal Tax Account service can be added by following this link - https://www.gov.uk/personal-tax-account – and can be used to check and update a number of personal tax related concerns, including:
- Check your Income Tax estimate and tax code
- Fill in, send and view a personal tax return (if you are registered for Self-Assessment)
- Claim a tax refund
- Check your income from work in the previous 5 years
- Check how much Income Tax you paid in the previous 5 years
- Check and manage your tax credits
- Check your State Pension
- Track tax forms that you’ve submitted online
- Check or update your Marriage Allowance claim
- Tell HMRC about a change of name or address
- Check or update benefits you get from work, for example company car details and medical insurance
- Find your National Insurance number
- Find your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number (if you are registered for Self-Assessment)
- If relevant, check your Self-Assessment tax payments have been allocated to your Self-Assessment account, and what payments are due shortly
Capital Gains Tax on UK property account
The Capital Gains Tax on UK property account can also be added, should you dispose of a UK residential property and crystallise a Capital Gains Tax liability. As the deadline for reporting and paying any CGT liability is 60 days from the sale completion and agents are not able to set up this service on behalf of a client, having a Government Gateway account already setup, to add this service, can provide a vital reduction in administration time.
The Capital Gains Tax on UK property account service can be added via this link -https://www.gov.uk/report-and-pay-your-capital-gains-tax/if-you-sold-a-property-in-the-uk-on-or-after-6-april-2020
Business Tax Account
Your HMRC business tax account is an online account which brings together all your business taxes in one place.
From one sign in, you can view a summary of your business’s tax position for taxes that you have registered for. You can use your online tax services to complete tasks like making returns and payments.
To setup a Business Tax Account, create a separate Government Gateway account (from your personal Government Gateway account) and then select ‘Organisation’ when setting up a HMRC account.
A link to HMRC’s guidance on setting up a Business Tax Account can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/use-hmrcs-business-tax-account/use-hmrcs-business-tax-account
Sole traders, partnerships and limited companies can all use a Business Tax Account to get details of their tax position for:
- Self-Assessment (for sole-traders and partnerships)
- Corporation Tax (for limited companies)
- And over 40 other business taxes
The Business Tax Account can be used to:
- check your tax position for taxes that you have registered for
- make returns and payments
- add or remove a tax, duty or scheme
- give a team member access to a tax duty or scheme
- check secure messages from HMRC
- add, view or change a tax agent
- get help with your taxes
- update your contact details
- sign up for paperless notifications
- change your Government Gateway use ID and security preferences
To see all your taxes in your business tax account, you must only use one Government Gateway user ID. The one you use to sign into your business tax account must be the same one that you used to:
- register for your first tax as a business
- register for any other business taxes (explained in sections ‘Adding or cancelling a business tax’ and ‘Further information’)
It is clear that HMRC are moving as many services as they can online and looking to improve the online offering for customers. This travel is unlikely to slow, despite there being delays in the rollout of Making Tax Digital (“MTD”) for Self-Assessment and Corporation Tax.
We recommend that all of our clients have a Government Gateway setup and have online access to all of the services they use, mainly due to having immediate access to the status of any accounts and also so that where reporting or account administration is required, this can be dealt with in a timely manner (including where agents require client input as part of an engagement).