HMRC has finally conceded that from time to time someone other than a tax advisor, say a friend or family member, can help you with your tax affairs. But in these days of data protection there are procedures to follow. What’s involved?

Third party support

HMRC is open to allowing you third party support with your tax, whether it’s because of illness, lack of knowledge or you’re plain stressed out. You’re allowed to appoint someone else to help even if you have authorised an accountant to act for you.

Help by phone

HMRC will speak to someone else about your tax but you’ve both got to be together at the time. HMRC makes checks to confirm your and their identity and that you’re happy with the arrangement. You’ll need your National Insurance number (NINO) or tax reference to hand when you call to go through the formalities with HMRC before handing the phone to the person helping you. Phone calls are OK for simple issues but for trickier matters there’s another level of help.

A trusted helper

For a longer lasting arrangement you can ask the other person to be your “trusted helper”. To set things up you’ll need to register them online, but first you’ll have to prove your identity. You can then appoint the other person as your trusted helper – you’ll need your and the other person’s NINO and date of birth. The whole process shouldn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes. Trap. Remember that legal responsibility for your tax affairs stays with you. So, you’ll carry the can if the trusted person makes a mistake.

Limited help

Your trusted helper can, by accessing your personal tax account (PTA), check the right amount of income tax is being paid, e.g. you have the correct tax code, claim a tax refund, update your PTA and check or update company car tax. Trusted helpers are limited to these four basic things. If you want help with other areas, such as questions about your tax return, you’ll need to appoint them as your tax intermediary. Tip. You can stop the trusted helper arrangement at any time by blocking access through the “Help friends and family” section of your PTA.

Tax intermediary

You can appoint an “intermediary” (see The next step ). They can be an individual or an organisation, like an advice centre. Intermediaries can talk to HMRC on your behalf without you present but they don’t have access to your PTA. Tip. You can appoint a person as both your intermediary and trusted helper – this means they can speak to HMRC on your behalf and access your PTA.

Taking it further

If you really want to take up the cudgels with HMRC you can authorise an accountant or other tax advisor (HMRC calls them agents). They don’t have to be a professional advisor. They can communicate with HMRC about any aspect of your tax but don’t have direct access to your PTA.