Over one million businesses were signed up to Making Tax Digital for VAT as of the first major filing deadline on 7 August 2019. What are the key takeaway points that you and your clients can use from this first tranche of MTD returns to help things go smoothly?

Two HMRC accounts

You should now have two accounts with HMRC. There is the old Online Services account and the new Agent Services Account (ASA) which you use to access Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV). We are aware that some accountants have reported problems when trying to log in to both accounts simultaneously. Using two different computers or different web browsers has worked for some people, but others have been unable to log into the ASA account.

HMRC’s latest advice is to avoid using two browsers, and to clear your cache and remove cookies before trying again.

Pro advice. Using a direct link to the agent sign in page (see Follow up ) may also get around the problem.

Tracking sign-ups

Work to improve the ASA is ongoing and HMRC has just redesigned the dashboard. There are now more services, including the “Sign clients up for MTDfV” that can be accessed straight from the ASA, rather than needing a separate page on GOV.UK.

In addition, when you copy client authorisations over, the last four digits of the Government Gateway user ID are now copied over too, plus the number of clients attached to that user ID. This way you know which Gateway IDs are linked to your ASA and which client authorisations are recognised for MTDfV.

You can now track the status of any requests made to authorise new clients in the last 30 days if they’re already signed up to MTDfV.Use the link on the dashboard “Track your recent authorisation requests” .

Pro advice. Access the MTDfV page on HMRC’s Agent Forum (see Follow up ) regularly for peer support and suggested workarounds on commonly reported issues.

Managing client details

You can now do some key bits of housekeeping from the ASA, including:

  • changing a client’s business name (for limited companies)
  • updating the principal place of business
  • changing VAT return dates
    cancelling VAT registrations
  • opting out of MTDfV
  • submitting returns for opted out clients; and
  • viewing return deadlines for opted out clients

VAT certificates

Initially there were problems viewing VAT certificates online. These appear to have been fixed, and most clients should be able to view the certificates in their business tax account. You should also be able to see it through the “Manage your client’s details” service.

If you have clients with non-standard accounting periods you won’t be able to view certificates online yet, though this should be resolved by the end of the year.

Pro advice. If they need the information urgently in the interim, call the VAT Helpline on 0300 200 3700 and request the details from them.

Who can access what?

MTDfV has two sets of access and information. Firstly, there is the access your clients can use via their software and business tax account. Secondly, there is your access as the authorised agent. The two are not the same. For example, changing the contact e-mail or bank details for payment can only be done by your client. HMRC has confirmed that these services won’t be made available to agents due to security concerns. Clients will therefore need to do these things directly.

Pro advice. The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has published a handy summary of what you and your client can access respectively (see Follow up ).

Check clients are signed up

HMRC sends out confirmation e-mails to tell businesses they’ve successfully signed up for MTDfV. This is supposed to go out within 72 hours. For the first group of businesses there were delays at the last minute.

Some businesses weren’t sure if they’d signed up successfully in the absence of confirmation and tried to sign up again. HMRC’s advice is not to do this and just wait for the e-mail. Check junk folders and ring the Helpline if you think it should have arrived and hasn’t.

Pro advice. Don’t try to submit a return until the business has been set up on HMRC’s new system. The filing will fail, and you are likely to get an error message saying the record has not been found.


Some first tranche businesses were late signing up for MTDfV, so missed their first MTDfV filing deadline. Watch the timing, especially for direct debits. If you do miss the boat, HMRC’s advice is to file the VAT return the old way, pay the VAT due and make sure you’re signed up for the next return. If you have a client in this situation, warn them that they’re likely to get a nudge letter from HMRC.

There was also uncertainty about where problems were, i.e. at HMRC’s end or the client’s. If you get problems filing, you can look at common error codes. You may be able to work out whether HMRC hasn’t generated the obligation to file: you may see this referred to as receiving an obligation. You may also be able to work out if your client’s sign-up hasn’t happened properly.

Pro advice. The CIOT has published these codes (see Follow up ). You could also try HMRC’s Developer Hub (see Follow up ) if you are technically competent.

We are aware that some accountants have been asked to go through two-step verification (2SV) for each submission. This is a significant headache especially as multiple authorisation codes can come in on the same office phone, and it isn’t possible to identify which client the code belongs to.

Pro advice. This looks like a problem related to specific software suppliers, so go there for help first. You should only have to go through 2SV as an agent every 18 months.

VAT return receipts

You will no longer get a VAT return receipt from HMRC. This is a big change and may trip many accountants up. HMRC’s logic is that the software should provide the necessary confirmation, but not all software does.

Pro advice. If the software you or your clients use for filing does provide confirmation, print it out in case of disputes over filing later on.

MTD returns penalties

HMRC is currently taking a soft landing approach to penalties for digital record keeping and filing. It is important to understand that this is only for the first year.

Pro advice. Additionally, remind clients that the soft landing does not apply to payments, so if there are problems with filing it is crucial to ensure the VAT is still paid on time.

Despite recent improvements accountants are still experiencing filing problems. If you or your clients encounter a problem, the recently published list of common error codes might help. Keep any software filing confirmation receipts as HMRC will no longer issue them.

Follow up

CIOT: common error codes
CIOT: difference between agent and client access
HMRC Developer Hub
for managing client details
Agent Forum
Agent Service Account sign-in page