Listening. Still the most important tool in a digital world

The first three months of this year have been more about listening than anything else, for me and my team.

Through a series of telephone interviews, face-to-face meetings and email conversations we’ve been exploring what matters most for software developers in terms of their relationship with HMRC – something I promised at the outset that I’d be doing.

Most organisations these days are quick to tell you that they’re listening to customers. The conversations I’ve been involved in have once again reminded me of the big difference between hearing and listening. Taking time to connect with some of our key customers in this way has really challenged my thinking at times.

Here’s just a few of the things that software developers have been telling us are important to them:

  • More information about software errors that have occurred would help software developers make big improvements to data quality.
  • The ability to be able to raise issues directly with HMRC on behalf of their customers would help them improve the overall user experience.
  • We could also help software developers improve the user experience by making it easier for accountants/ agents to be able to see and do what a customer can.
  • Helping them to give accountants/ agents access to a more complete picture of their client’s affairs, e.g. call up the prior year’s tax return, would in turn enable accountants/ agents to provide a better service for their clients.

So we’ve gathered some rich insight and I’m very grateful to everyone in the software developer community who has taken the time to engage with us. I can assure you that we are considering all of the feedback we’ve had carefully.

We’re also looking across government. Although we’re one of the bigger departments, that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t also learn a lot from what others are doing in this area.

I met with Government Digital Service (GDS) in February. It was great to find that they completely share our enthusiasm about the potential for APIs, both in HMRC and in wider government. I met with GDS again last week and we’ll be working closely with them. Maintaining common standards and ways of communicating between government platforms will be important aspects of the API work.

So what’s next? It’s now about taking all the feedback we have and using it to shape the approach we’ll be taking in the coming financial year and further ahead. Further updates on that to come in future posts (will be after purdah (the pre-election period) ends).

Most importantly, my team and I will be continuing the conversations we’ve started – both with software developers and across government. These are crucial and will ensure we take a joined up approach, tackle things in the right order, and really address the issues that will make a difference for the developer community.

If you’re a software developer or have an interest in our API work and my team haven’t already been in touch then we’d really like to hear from you. Please contact us at

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