An accountancy professional who specialises in advising performing arts professionals is urging HMRC to re-examine their processes for overseas workers seeking to register as self-employed, as she says the current system is “nigh on impossible” to navigate for many.
‘Quite a few months ago, HMRC stopped using a system called “Verify” in order to deal with verification of people that needed to be registered for Self Assessment and self-employment.
‘That caused a huge problem for how people from overseas can come to the UK and work as a self-employed person as they were not then able to register in order to pay taxes.
‘HMRC finally changed their system recently and now include more ways of being able to identify the potential tax payer – great news.
‘However, on taking a number overseas clients through how to register as self-employed we had great difficulty finding the right page to go to in order to register. Lots of old links didn’t work but we found our way around it.
‘Then it came to the verification bit. These include the standard UK passport, UK driving license, UK biometric residence permit, Payslips or P60, self-assessment, tax credit
option, or a credit record but spot the problem…my clients in this case are Spanish.
‘However, they do have a payslip so we could use the credit record but on the next stage it automatically asks for two items out of a UK passport, UK photo card driving license, or credit reference. Once again, an overseas worker living and working here will struggle.’
The matter is not helped by the closed helplines, long wait times when the lines are open and of course, if English is not your first language, according to Louise.
‘Without an accountant to “jump the queue” with our agent status, this poor performer has now got to sit on the phone and wait for somebody to answer it, when he or she could and should be practicing or performing.
‘English is not the performer’s first language and you can’t just rock up at a local office and explain the situation. Performers want to do right by the tax system but how can they when the options are not there or are so labyrinthine in their complexity that it is tempting to give up!?
‘We’ve had 3 months of a closed helpline and queues can be well in excess of an hour when people do get through. Come on HMRC, think about the customer experience, wherever they are from.