HMRC have issued a special Agent Update Self Assessment edition to help you prepare for the 31 January filing date. We have summarised the key content for you with links to our detailed guidance on the topics covered.

Talking points

Agent Talking Points are weekly online webinars for tax agents and advisors, with HMRC experts on hand to answer questions. They last for around an hour and in the run-up to 31 January 2020, will focus on topics that could help you with your clients’ returns.

There is a full list of the webinars with links to sign up included within the Agent Update.


There are 19 toolkits that can be found on here and which provide guidance on common errors that HMRC see frequently in filed returns. The toolkits are updated each year to reflect any changes coming in.

HMRC YouTube

Did you know HMRC has its own YouTube channel? They produce help and support videos on a range of different tax matters, to guide customers through various transactions with HMRC. You can subscribe here

Self Assessment (SA) Peak 2020 – Avoiding delays with your online submissions

HMRC receive over 11 million digital tax returns each year and approximately 90,000 need clerical review. This results in a delay in processing your client’s return.

Below are some of the main reasons why the process can be delayed.

Marriage Allowance (MA) relief claimed through return only

  • If your client’s partner did not complete the regular claim (via online/phone call/ letter) for the Marriage Allowance transfer and made their claim only in their SA return, this could cause a delay.
  • It is also preferable when both partners are in SA, that the transferring partner submits their tax return before the recipient.
    • This will allow the SA system to process the transfer for that year only.

See Marriage Allowance (Transferable married couples allowance)

Submitting a return as an amendment

  • HMRC cannot process returns submitted as an amendment, as the original return has not been submitted. Please make sure that the type of return that you are submitting is correct to avoid delays in processing.

See Time Limit for Claims and Assessments and Special Relief.

Did your client receive a Self Assessment closure letter (form SA832) for the year you are trying to submit?

  • If HMRC recently closed your client’s Self Assessment record this means that you might not be able to submit their return online and you will need to ask HMRC to reopen the account for filing.

Does the Class 2/4 NIC show correctly on the return?

  • Class 2/4 NIC can only be included on your client’s return if they are set up correctly on the National Insurance self-employed database. You can do that by submitting form CWF1 to tell HMRC about the start of a new self-employed or partnership income source.

See New business: sole trader compliance checklist

Have you checked that your software is up-to-date?

  • Using an older version of software can cause returns to be rejected as they will be incompatible with HMRC systems. The rejected returns have to be reviewed through a clerical process, which causes lengthy delays.

Are you submitting an amendment for an earlier year on the 31 January?

  • Filing an online amendment for the previous tax year on 31 January causes delays and may prevent the amendment from being dealt with automatically. You should consider filing your online amendments as early as possible.


  • The processing of the return may encounter delays, but the payment deadline stays the same. Tell your clients to pay, on time, the amount you have calculated being due plus any potential Payments on Account.

Agent Account Managers (AAMs)

You may not be aware that AAMs provide a service to help resolve client-specific issues and act as an intermediary between agents and HMRC where the normal communication channels have broken down.

HMRC say that during the 2017/18 peak period the top 3 issues the AAMs dealt with were:

  • SA Correspondence: progress chasing forms SA400/SA1 and repayments made by tax return.
  • PAYE Correspondence: progress chasing repayment requests made by tax return.
  • Agent Maintainer: progress chasing form 64-8 authorisation.

To use the AAM service you need to:

  • complete the online registration form here.
  • Hold 64-8 authority to act on behalf of your client. (See above, however, this might be the issue you need the AAM to resolve!).
  • Demonstrate you have attempted to resolve the issue through normal HMRC channels.

See Where to send form 64-8 (agent authority) and New business: sole trader compliance checklist

Agent Email Service

Sign up to receive email alerts from HMRC on topics that are relevant to the agent community such as news from across HMRC, joint consultations and updates on services like Talking Points and agent toolkits here

Agent Forum

  • An Agent Forum Service upgrade was launched during October 2019. All existing users of the service were invited to make the switch and provided with guidance on how to do so. Live cases were migrated across to retain continuity of the issues for resolution portfolio.
  • A new feature of the service is the addition of a ‘Knowledge Base’ together with an enhanced search facility, access to time-critical announcements and GOV.UK content across all tax categories.
  • The Agent Forum Service is currently available to registered members of Professional Bodies (PBs). If you are not registered, belong to a PB and wish to join, you can do so by opening this HMRC URL link

Income tax Ready Reckoner

  • This service is available for you and your clients to estimate how much Income Tax and National Insurance is payable for the current tax year (6 April 2019 to 5 April 2020) and tells you your take-home pay if you do not have any other deductions, such as pension contributions or student loans. It can be accessed here.
  • There is a separate Ready Reckoner tool for the self-employed

Paying HMRC under Self Assessment

  • HMRC are encouraging all customers to pay electronically by direct debit, faster payment, Bacs, CHAPS via online or telephone banking or by debit or corporate credit card online.
  • Taxpayers can receive any repayments electronically (Bacs) by providing their bank details on their return and thereby be assured that their payments and repayments will be received quicker and be more secure.

Budget payment plan

Did you know that HMRC offers a ‘budget payment plan’ for customers to make regular payments in advance if they are up to date with all previous SA payments?

The payment plan allows customers to:

  • decide how much to pay each week or month and
  • stop paying for up to 6 months.

If the total paid during the year doesn’t cover the bill in full, the difference must be paid by the normal payment deadlines.

Paying HMRC by credit card

  • There is a fee if payments are made by corporate credit card which is not refundable.
  • Payments made by personal credit card cannot be accepted.
  • Use your 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) followed by the letter ‘K’ as your payment reference.
  • HMRC will accept payment on the date your client makes it, not the date it reaches their account, including on bank holidays and weekends.

Pay your Self Assessment tax bill

Individuals who are having difficulty making payment should contact HMRC as soon as possible.

SA Repayments

  • HMRC aim to issue SA repayments within 2 to 4 weeks, however, due to internal checks against fraud and non-compliance, this timescale may slip.
  • If the 4-week timeframe elapses, find out when to expect an SA repayment or reply from HMRC by using the online service, Where’s My Reply? for tax agents.
  • You can also use this service to check how long it will take HMRC to:
    • register you as an agent to use HMRC Online Services,
    • process an application for authority to act on behalf of a client,
    • amend your agent details.

Links to our useful self assessment guides:

2018/19 Self-Assessment Tax Return toolkit

Do I have to file a tax return?

How to work out the High Income Child Benefit Tax charge

Pensions: tax charge for excess contributions

Self Assessment 2018-19 returns: online filing exclusions

Top slicing relief: how you slice it

External link:

Agent Update Self Assessment edition: January 2020