HMRC Digital Services for Agents

05 January 2015

HMRC have issued a further detailed update on digital services for agents.As always, the CIPP advises that services intended for agents are usually applicable to bureaux as well.

Many thanks to HMRC for this report:

Agent Online Self Serve (AOSS)

In this latest update we’re pleased to announce that our AOSS project has passed its first Government Digital Services (GDS) assessment. This involved a panel interview for the AOSS team and an assessment of the project against 26 service standards. We met GDS’ requirements on all 26 counts. This success enables us to move into the next phase - the design and development of the first live service, which we’ll trial (through what’s known as a ‘private beta’ release) with a small number of agent users.

During our initial user research agents told us that the ability to access the PAYE accounts of their employer clients was very important to them. That’s why we are planning for an initial service that will enable agents, once they have confirmed and verified their employer client lists, to access their clients’ PAYE accounts and view liabilities and payments.

Our first live (private beta) release will involve a small number of agents with whom we’ll work closely to improve the service. We’ll then gradually increase the scope and the number of users as we respond to feedback and make improvements. We’ll also begin to add new features.

If agents would like to help us with this work we’d very much like to hear from them. For the initial service in 2015 we will need agents who:

· Are based in the U.K;

· Have between 20 and 200 employer PAYE clients; and

· Hold Government Gateway administrator credentials on behalf of their firm. That means they are able to login on the Government Gateway and (if necessary) delegate access to others in the firm

Agents who would like to help and who meet these criteria should email [email protected]

If agents have already volunteered, either through their representative body or individually, they don’t need to contact us again. We’ll be going through our current list of volunteers to identify anyone we think will be able to help us and we’ll approach them directly.

We also plan to publish an advert and a questionnaire on the GOV.UK website to help us reach as many agents as possible who might be interested in getting involved.

Prototype - the first service

We hope to publish the prototype on GOV.UK so more agents can look at the screens we’ve designed so far. This won’t be a live service but it will offer an opportunity to let us have views. We’ll let you know when the prototype has been published and we hope that agents will let us know what they think. Obtaining feedback to improve the service at every stage is really important. The current AOSS design has been through several iterations and has already been improved thanks to user research and comments.

The prototype service has been demonstrated to some agents’ representatives and to the larger professional services firms so that they can give us their early thoughts.

Third Party Software

We know that many agents use third party software products, which are able to exchange information with HMRC systems by using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) – sets of rules that developers use that define how a third party product can ask one of our systems to do something. We will be working with software providers on the production of APIs to ensure compatibility with the new agents’ service. We’ll provide these APIs to agents who develop their own in-house products too.

Discussions about the support third party software solutions might provide to AOSS started at a meeting of agents, software developers and HMRC in October. A further meeting is scheduled for February 2015 and we’ll let you know how this work progresses.

Next steps

We’ll continue with our user research and with designing and developing our first live (private beta) service. As we’ve said before we know that this will present us with some challenges. For example, we’ll need to design a solution that works well where multiple agents are acting for the same client and we’ll want to talk to some agents about that.

We have made good progress but we know that there is still much to do. We’ll keep you posted through regular updates.