On the surface, that may sound like a singular change and a major milestone. Well, it is and it isn't!
It is, because it will be the first HMRC Digital Service for our PAYE employee customers. Right now, if you are one of the 41 million PAYE employees and you need to question your tax, you have to telephone or write to HMRC. HMRC is committed to deliver a transparent tax system that encourages voluntary compliance, enabled by customer-focused digital services which are so straightforward and convenient that all who can use them will choose to do so, whilst those that can’t are not excluded.
It is a major milestone because it will also be the first HMRC Digital Service to use the Government Identity Assurance service. This will enable our PAYE customers to securely register and log in to access their tax records. Identity Assurance will let customers decide who to register with and to re-use the same identity across multiple Government Services. It will let customers verify and authenticate their identity to trusted 3rd parties.
Great as all that is, on the other hand, it isn't a singular change, because - as the Digital Service Manager - as much as I look forward to the first day of the beta service, I equally look forward to the second day, and the day after that, and the day after that...
For me, this is because of the 26 Digital by Default Service Standards, which all new or redesigned government digital services must meet by April 2014, I think number 19 is perhaps the most important:
Build a service that can be iterated on a frequent basis, e.g. in response to user feedback or performance data and make sure resources are in place to do / pay for the iteration.
So you'll find me allowing myself a brief celebration on day one of the PAYE for employees beta service, but then I will be quickly back to work looking at how I can make the service even better for my users.
This is very different to how we have traditionally worked in HMRC and I think wider Government, but it’s vital if we’re to provide Digital by Default public services which are so straightforward and convenient that all who can use them will choose to do so.
The PAYE private Beta
I'd also like to say a few words on our approach to our beta service. I recently provided an update to the Digital Transformation pages where you can find updates on all the digital 'exemplar' services. I talked about our initial private beta phase which we will start in February 2014. This will be an invite service to approximately 1000 PAYE employees. Those employees will be able to log in to the new service, using Identity Assurance, view their company car employment benefits, make changes to them and submit them to HMRC for an immediate confirmation. That may sound small and niche, but it’s the start of bigger things.
Hopefully we will have done the hard things well so the service is simple and easy to use. I am keen to see how this initial service works with a relatively small group of customers, and then as above, release something else quickly, and so on.
I think the benefit of responding quickly to user needs is key, but there are other benefits to the approach of releasing software more regularly in smaller chunks. Make sure you read to the bottom of that page and don't miss the blog post on this.
From April 2014 we will then start to scale-up the PAYE for employees digital service to more customers, whilst at the same time adding new features and making improvements.