First HMRC manual on GOV.UK - user feedback is essential

16 March 2015

Over the past few months HMRC and the Government Digital Service (GDS) have collaborated on improving the way the HMRC manuals are maintained and made available to the public.

HMRC publishes about 200 tax manuals which added up to about 80,000 pages on its former site. These manuals are mainly used by tax agents and other specialists for detailed tax guidance.

HMRC has built a new publishing system which makes it easier for its tax experts to update and maintain the content of the manuals. Tax agents, accountants and specialists need to be able to see the tax manuals exactly how HMRC publishes them internally, so the GDS team knew they couldn’t touch the content. They created a new design for the manuals to make them more user-friendly and bring them in line with GDS design principles.

Between the backend and frontend sits the newly developed “write API” that allows HMRC editors to publish and update manuals on GOV.UK. This is a major milestone for GOV.UK; the first write API that allows a government organisation to publish directly to GOV.UK, something GDS will be building on over the coming months.

VAT Government and Public Bodies is the first HMRC manual that is pushed from HMRC’s publishing system through the GDS API and then published on GOV.UK.

Please provide feedback

The new version on GOV.UK and the old version on HMRC are currently running in parallel. They will both be kept live for a couple of weeks to give you enough time to review and provide feedback. The best way to provide feedback is through the “Give feedback about this page” link at the top of each page or through 'our feedback form'.


CIPP comment

Although this manual is VAT and not PAYE related it is the first of many and it is critical to the long term success of GOV.UK that feedback is given. It is particularly important at this stage to provide detailed comments about the manuals as the information you provide will be reviewed carefully and used to ensure the manuals are meeting the needs of users.

Please do pass this message on to any of your colleagues that deal with VAT.


In the coming weeks and months HMRC will import the remaining 200+ manuals into their new publishing system. After these imports have been carefully reviewed by HMRC’s tax experts the manuals will gradually be published and the old HMRC version redirected to GOV.UK.

Future development and improvements

GDS has previously blogged about the manuals format that they are developing for all government departments. The GOV.UK product team is starting with a new round of iterations on this format and will look at things such as:

  • search within a manual
  • printing and downloading manuals.

These improvements will also be applied to the HMRC manuals so that this format benefits from the work GDS are doing for all government organisations.