The Agent Forum (the Forum) is designed solely to:
- Identify potentially widespread issues with HMRC’s systems and processes.
- Allow evidence to be gathered, to determine whether issues are in fact widespread.
- Enable the Issues Overview Group to prioritise issues for escalation.
- Enable Forum users to be able to suggest solutions or work-arounds.
- Enable HMRC to understand the issue and discuss it with the relevant personnel within HMRC, with a view to the issue being investigated and resolved or otherwise brought to a conclusion, contingent on meeting current and future legislative requirements.
The Agent Forum is not designed to:
- Be a chat site or open forum for discussion. This would significantly increase the traffic on the Forum making it difficult to identify and deal with issues and so undermining its purpose. Threads should be kept on topic.
- Be an avenue for the resolution of client-specific matters, although it is recognised the widespread issues can affect a number of individual clients. Examples may be requested by HMRC to enable issues to be investigated.
- Circumvent ‘business as usual’ channels that have not broken down, including the Agent Account Manager Service. This also covers: On-going formal complaints, compliance checks, appeals against HMRC decisions.
How the Forum operates:
- Forum users post a new topic, or add to an existing topic, in accordance with the ‘house rules’.
- All new topics created are reviewed and a unique reference number allocated by HMRC.
- Posts are reviewed each working day by the HMRC Moderators, who will research guidance, both internal and external, with a view to providing a resolution.
- If the Moderators cannot resolve a particular issue, they will contact their colleagues within the appropriate HMRC Business Stream.
- Moderators will acknowledge the post and provide initial comments. This may include a request for further evidence / examples to determine whether the issue is widespread, and / or that the issue has been referred to the relevant Business Stream.
- When HMRC requests information / evidence, this should be submitted via the agent mail box only, which will be provided upon request, and NOT through the Forum. No client details should be provided on the Forum.
The Moderators will forward this information to colleagues in the appropriate Business Stream to assist with formulating a resolution.
- The Professional Body representatives on then Issues Overview Group (now on referred to as the IOG) will monitor the Forum and, after discussion between them, will highlight posts which, in their opinion, appear to be high priority.
- As and when necessary, after their acknowledgement of the original post, Moderators will provide a status update on each issue. This might simply be that they are still awaiting a response from the relevant Business Stream, or something more substantive.
- On a monthly basis, the IOG (both Professional Bodies and HMRC) will discuss the issues on the forum, particularly those they have identified as high priority, and will agree which (if any) require further escalation within HMRC.
- Where a response is received from the Business Area this will be posted by the Moderators immediately.
- When the Moderators post what they consider is an adequate final response it will be posted at the end of, and replicated at the top of, the thread and highlighted in bold. Annotated within the original issue heading will be “HMRC Response”. The thread will be left open for five days to enable any further comments to be submitted querying the final response.
- If no further comments have been posted, after the five days have expired, the Moderators will lock the thread.
- If further comments are posted within the five days, which query or challenge the HMRC final response, the IOG will determine at their monthly discussions what next steps should be taken.
- Any comments subsequent to an issue being answered and locked should be sent to the Agent mailbox, quoting the appropriate reference number to assist with identification. Where the comments raise a new aspect, the Moderators will re-open the original thread. Otherwise, the Moderators may include the comments within the post at their discretion.