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HMRC's new API strategy explained

15th Sep 2015
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Steve Checkley of TaxCalc and BASDA offers an insider’s view of HMRC’s API strategy.

As a director at TaxCalc and chair of the software trade body’s accountants in practice group, Checkley has been heavily involved in developments around the way HMRC systems interact with third party software.

As presented by HMRC, the API strategy will open up the data within the department to a new generation of third party software suppliers. Rather than continuing to handle significant chunks of tax software development in-house, HMRC is hoping to improve the “customer” experience by harnessing the creativity and enthusiasm of app developers.

When Checkley visited AccountingWEB’s office last week, we sat down to ask him just what the department’s API strategy is all about.

The fate of HMRC’s software strategy is currently in the hands of ministers undertaking Whitehall’s post-Budget spending review. But Checkley is hopeful that it will survive intact: “I think this has a lot of support among MPs.”

Treasury minister David Gauke is certainly a fan. He hosted a meeting with software developers last week, and told AccountingWEB afterwards, ““If people have the ability to do [their taxes] on their laptop or smartphone, then we can make the whole interaction with the tax system much easier. “

The other lingering question is in what order the APIs will be rolled out. “At the moment you have what is termed ‘old world’ - self assessment, corporation tax, VAT. They want these moved into a new world environment,” said Checkley. “But after that, it’s very much up to developers.”

Checkley encouraged practitioners to get in touch with their software providers. “How are software developers going to know their priorities? They want their customers to be telling them,” said Checkley.

“We’re looking for advice from our clients, we have HMRC’s ear. There are some great opportunities. It’s not a given that if we ask for something HMRC would build it. It needs to benefit a lot of people - but if it does, then there’s absolutely every reason why HMRC would implement it.”

Steve Checkley will offer further insights on HMRC's agent online self-serve initiative, the end of tax returns and its API strategy at the Practice Excellence Conference in London next week - click below for details:

Replies (7)

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Sarah
By sarahjaneuk
15th Sep 2015 18:06

'They want these moved into a new world environment,” said Checkley. “But after that, it’s very much up to developers.”'

Here speaks someone who is allowing the technology to drive the way it works instead of working out what is needed by customers and asking the developers to implement that.

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By James Reeves
16th Sep 2015 09:27

Driving seat

sarahjaneuk wrote:

Here speaks someone who is allowing the technology to drive the way it works instead of working out what is needed by customers and asking the developers to implement that.

I don't see it that way. Software developers have been asking their clients (accountants) what they want for years, but have been powerless to deliver since they have limited access to the data and services that the customer needs. In turn, the software developers have been telling HMRC what is needed, but HMRC have been following their own digital agenda, providing end-to-end solutions that are inflexible and costly.

Now HMRC have decided to concentrate on delivering a more comprehensive back-end solution that will not serve the end-user directly but will allow third party developers to provide a much larger range of functions to their users. Accountants will tell the third party developers what they want, and they will tell HMRC what they need from the APIs.

Speaking as a software developer, I think this will be beneficial to all.

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By the_Poacher
16th Sep 2015 07:56

It's about saving money
Let's be honest, the governemt just wants cheaper public services. The availability of APIs will make it easier for hmrc to pass on costs to the private sector

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By listerramjet
16th Sep 2015 11:21

tail wagging dog?

not quite.  App developers are in a competitive market, and consumers are happy to shop around (but perhaps not so happy to pay!).  

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Francois
By Francois Badenhorst
16th Sep 2015 12:24

Precisely

listerramjet wrote:

not quite.  App developers are in a competitive market, and consumers are happy to shop around (but perhaps not so happy to pay!).  

I don't think Steve and his colleagues are under any illusions. They can't go run roughshod and do what they like because people won't buy their product anymore.

Welcome to the free market, baby. 

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By ming_the_reasonable
16th Sep 2015 19:28

Adopt or ignore

I tend to agree with Mr Reeves and Mr Checkley. It's up to us to tell our suppliers what we want out of this, for them to get that from HMRC and then to make it.

Also, it sounds like we can take what we want from it or ignore it. As I said in another thread, I'm interested in seeing where this goes.

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By Kate Upcraft
17th Sep 2015 06:32

Wrong priority at the moment ?
As Chair of the RTI stakeholder taskforce, I'd like to see HMRC lobbying for resourced to fix the data corruption inherent in those legacy systems first. There is no point building a 'new middle layer', an agent online service or digital tax accounts if the core data is fundamentally corrupted with duplicated records and an unstable ETMP accounting system as is the case at present. Having corrupt data delivered back to you is hardly good customer service however clever the technology is. Last week the Minister told accounting web: "I think that there will always be an issue with whatever system that you have. But a more transparent tax system does lend itself to higher quality
data. The problems emerge more quickly," Yes minister they will emerge more quickly so I hope your civil servants have been honest with you about the state of RTI data at present before you try to build on that foundation to deliver HMRC's systems of tomorrow but even more importantly welfare reform in the shape of universal credit for 8m people

Kate Upcraft AMBCS

ISIS Support Services

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