Kantar Public was commissioned by HMRC to research the use of HVA (High Volume Agents) to claim tax reliefs and rebates by taxpayers. The report outlines that such agents make claims on behalf of an individual and take a cut of up to 50 percent of the secured refund.
Thirty participants in the research were subject to an in-depth interview. The people interviewed had previously used a HVA to make a tax claim.
From the findings, people using a HVA to claim tax refunds were classed into four categories:
- Opportunists - people responding to direct advertisements and who otherwise would not have been pursuing a claim.
- Time Optimisers - people who could make a claim directly with HMRC but choose to save time in exchange for a smaller eventual refund due to commission fees.
- Financial/Language Barriers - people who either have issues making a claim due to language or literacy obstacles, and other people who have financial difficulties and need the extra income injection.
- Uncertain - people who feel more confident in a third party dealing with their claim, or those who were unaware they could claim directly.
Researchers found that, of their sample, individuals claiming refunds included missed marriage allowance and expense claims for work-related tools and uniforms - such as NHS workers. Marriage allowance claimants included some people who were not in work at the time of claim but had been working previously.
Most participants in the research were unaware they could make a claim for a tax refund directly with HMRC and were unhappy when they considered the amount of commission paid and felt they had been misled by the HVA.
The report suggests to HMRC that better awareness and knowledge of the direct claims process needs to be communicated with taxpayers. From the claim forms required and how to complete them to the fact that no fee is taken by HMRC. For example, a claim form should be easily available from the GOV.UK website.