How did you find the agent registration process?

With the first quarter underway for VAT under MTD, it is worth updating the information on what everyone needs to do to ensure you can operate properly as a VAT Agent under the new scheme.

Individual businesses

Firstly, if you are helping clients to upload VAT returns under MTD via their own Gov.UK log in details (or your own business if you are VAT registered), using their own software to complete the return, then the process seems to be fairly straightforward. Most of the software companies have links from their website to follow which should add the business into the system and allow the return to successfully upload.

If you do not see the link, then you should follow this link from the gov.uk website.

You will need to ensure the client has compatible software, and then sign up to Making Tax Digital at least one week before their VAT Return is due.

They will receive an email within 72 hours to confirm that they can submit returns using software that is compatible with Making Tax Digital for VAT.

After they have signed up, they cannot use the ‘old’ VAT online services to send VAT Returns.

Feedback from HMRC has shown that they have been some teething problems where direct debits have not been set up properly or within the time frame required but this is falling under the 'soft landing' regime and if businesses have tried their best to carry this out correctly there will be no penalty issued.

Tax Agents

To be able to act as a tax agent for VAT under MTD you will need two HMRC agent accounts: an Online Services for Agents account (the ‘old’ existing service) and an Agent Services Account (ASA - the ‘new’ service for all things MTD). Eventually all accounts will be moved across to the ASA but for now, you will need two accounts and two government gateway log in details.

Existing Tax Agents

If you are an existing online tax agent, then the process is (should be) fairly simple. You will need to sign up for your new agent services account, using your old agent account to log in here.

You should find that as a part of this process you will need to give details of your professional body membership for AML purposes. HMRC will check with ICB that you are covered by us before they will finalise your application.

You cannot complete this process at present unless you have at least one client on your online services account as the system will check that you have clients registered.

Once this process has been completed your existing list of clients can be linked across to the new ASA and links made to the software ready for the first MTD VAT upload.

The link to the guidance for this is here.

You will still have to set up the new MTD details for the software one week before the first return is due as above, but it should be smooth sailing!

New Tax Agents

If you are a ‘new’ tax agent i.e. you have never acted as an agent before, or are a new business starting from scratch, then the process is quite involved. There are several additional steps you need to take to get to the point at which you can upload your first client MTD VAT return from your software.

Firstly, you must have your own gov.uk gateway account and log in details. You will have this from your own self-assessment tax returns, or your personal tax account. If you have not registered for this then you will have to do this first. You can do this here.

Once you have this you will need to register for two further accounts. The first one is the Online Services for Agents account. This link takes you to a help page.

Note: this is where some confusion has arisen with a few individuals who have used this route. The website gives two options:

However, the online services for agents account information does tend to take you around in circles and I have to say it got very annoying. (ICB is working with HMRC to improve the layout of these screens).

Firstly, click on the HMRC Online services for agents account. Scroll down the list until you see (at the very bottom).

This process will ask you to confirm your email address and, following the instructions, it will take you through the entire process, giving you a new government gateway log in number. Eventually, you will be given an agent ID which is a long (24 character) code. Make sure you record this or print it out. At this point, you will be taken to your online services for agent page and can use this to add on services you wish to use. Click on VAT for Agents (near the bottom of the list).

At this point, it will depend on whether or not your business is VAT registered.

If you are VAT registered, then you will need to give your own VAT details. If this applies to you then simply click the Continue button. Note: if you are not VAT registered do not click Continue as it can get confusing as to how to proceed.

If you are not VAT registered, you will need to apply for an Agent Reference Number. Click on apply for a VAT agent reference number from the screen. Follow the instructions and eventually, your personal agent number will be displayed (a short combination of letters and numbers). Record this as you will need it for future reference. You will receive an activation code through the post which will need to be entered in order to make this service live on your gov.uk account.

Note: at the time of writing there seemed to be a delay in obtaining the activation code – HMRC have looked into this and the backlog should now be cleared.

Once you have received your activation code, your online services agent account is live and you can start to add clients. Once completed, each client will receive a letter giving your details, and providing a further activation code to allow you to complete the process.

Finally, you can now follow the route for already registered agents – apply for an Agent Services Account as above and your clients will be migrated across.

So – how was it for you?

Hopefully pain-free.

However, if you have had problems in setting this up please contact memberservices@bookkeepers.org.uk with the title MTD Tax Agent problems so we can see if we can be of assistance.