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GOV.UK content: HMRC responds

14th Nov 2014
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HMRC has said that the reason some of its GOV.UK content "does not yet fully meet the needs of specialist users" is due to the transition not yet being complete. 

It also confirmed that HMRC manuals would be moving to the new portal, with a link back to the old HMRC versions.

The website transition has received criticism from accountants in regard to content quality, accessibility, navigation and many other issues.

This is something HMRC said it would be blogging about shortly on its working with tax agents blog.Some AccountingWEB members have raised concerns that some content they have come across is misleading, which could be dangerous for both agents and the general public. 

HMRC's response to the question of content quality was that the mainstream, or entry level guidance, has been written by GDS and fact checked by HMRC subject experts.

"Mainstream content is regularly tested with users, and this evidence shows that in general, GOV.UK content meets the needs of most of our customers well.

"We are aware, however, that GOV.UK does not yet fully meet the needs of more specialist users - this is because transition from is not yet complete. We are currently migrating more detailed and specialist content, and expect that this will help to address these concerns," said a spokesperson.

But the Revenue said that where someone finds content is unsatisfactory or if something isn't working well, there is a link on every page for users to inform GOV.UK of the issue.

It did provide assurance, however, that manuals and specialist guidance and publications including tax tables' words will remain the same. However, the presentation may change.

HMRC manuals' transition has been tested with a prototype of GOV.UK manuals formet earlier this year, the spokesman said. They then invited feedback via the HMRC working with tax agents blog.

Based on this feedback, the Revenue said it is working on the next stage of development and would link back to the original manuals until they are ready to migrate to GOV.UK.


Replies (17)

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By brian.barrett
14th Nov 2014 20:24


HMRC states that content meets the needs of its mainstream/entry-level customers, and that it is migrating more and more content to meet the needs of its more specialist users - with some links back to the old format.

Why on earth do the move then?  Why not leave the 2 sites working in tandem as they have for some years?  The specialist users appear happ with the HMRC site; and HMRC informs us that the entry-level user is happy with - what is there to achieve by merging the sites?

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By Exector
19th Nov 2014 15:07

money money money

brian.barrett wrote:

HMRC states that content meets the needs of its mainstream/entry-level customers, and that it is migrating more and more content to meet the needs of its more specialist users - with some links back to the old format.

Why on earth do the move then?  Why not leave the 2 sites working in tandem as they have for some years?  The specialist users appear happ with the HMRC site; and HMRC informs us that the entry-level user is happy with - what is there to achieve by merging the sites? save money

the only driver (or value)  this shower recognise


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By petersaxton
15th Nov 2014 07:28


It just shows that HMRC don't have a clue: "Oh, we just knocked something together in a short period of time. You can't expect it to make sense".

It looks like somebody who doesn't have a clue has asked for something to be done. Rather than the people who know what's going on saying: "It's impossible to do what is wanted with the available resources and the available time. How about doing it this way ...?". They just say: "Yes, I will do what you say and expect to get promoted afterwards - who cares about the problems it causes!?".

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By vinylnobbynobbs
17th Nov 2014 08:33

There we go again

with the "C" word!  HMRC do not have customers.  They have (long suffering) taxpayers.

Can anyone out there say that they have been advising on the GOV.UK site and have been using it in advance of it being released into the wild?  I know of no one.

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Time for change
By Time for change
17th Nov 2014 16:25

You really couldn't make it up, could you

Joined up thinking - really?

Heaven help the Companies House migration and, what is wrong with existing platforms?

Can anyone provide a reasoned and, reasonable, explanation for any of this?

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Nov 2014 16:36


I will have to tell me clients next time I make a cock[***] up that its fine, this is just a "transition period".

Companies House website (as with most things companies house) is really decent for a gov site. Why they have to mess over what is essentially dogma I dont know.  Election round the corner chaps, how about you sit on your hands for 12 months and see how the dust settles?  Chances are whoever is pushing this now will be out of office / shuffled/ promoted /demoted and the project will be abandoned. 



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By poysel
18th Nov 2014 11:39


If the transition is not complete then it is a shame that the pages are redirecting to - surely it would make sense to run them in tandem until everything was switched over?

I'm not sure about the promise from HMRC to keep specialist guidance - much has been lost already in the rewrite for taxpayers. I think we've always known that the manuals and booklets would make it through to intact but actually there was a lot of good stuff outside of that which has been rewritten.

Also, I think the timing of this switchover is unfortunate - just in time for Self Assessment busy season when practitioners don't have time to go round in circles trying to navigate a new website.

Out of interest, does anyone know what research was done with practitioners as to what we use the HMRC website for and what we value about the technical guidance so that our user needs could be establised? I've seen plenty of talk about taxpayers/customers but not about practitioners - surely as a group we are also a key stakeholder?

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By petersaxton
18th Nov 2014 12:35

Paul Scholes doesn't seem to think it's a problem

The only accountant who seems to be supportive of this mess is Paul Scholes. Paul said that we are supposed to know it all and/or pay for specialist services. Similarly, accountants may study to pass exams and get updates but nothing beats having access to the current and recent rules in one place and I'm not sure why accountants starting out need to spend for specialist technical help. I think it's the duty of HMRC to explain the tax rules simply and effectively to both taxpayers and accountants. It's not good enough to say things are wrong because there's some kind of "transition". Get something prepared properly and then transfer it but only if it's an improvement to what is already available.

Paul seems to think that we are complaining about something that's not important: "I'm off, some of you lot need something important to moan about." HMRCs and Paul's comments defending this botched transition show a total lack of understanding of the responsibilities of HMRC. Publishing information that is wrong and/or difficult to find and  hiding something that was quite good should never be defended.

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By moneymanager
19th Nov 2014 12:09

No need for it

Frankly, the GOV.UK website is a solution (if it really is) in search of a problem to address.

With HMRC not writing but 'fact checking', and we know how good they are at doing that, HMRC will have responsibility for the content. I can't wait for the Court cases to start.

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By moneymanager
19th Nov 2014 12:19

No, no, no

Apologies, that should obviously have read 'will have NO responsibility for it'.

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By codling
19th Nov 2014 12:43

dumb & dumber

This came up at a recent working together meeting and the consensus was that it was somewhat dumbed down and misleading in parts.

It was suggested that the easiest way to get what you need is actually to Google it (other search engines are available).

Seems to be a case of HM Government spending money on the wrong things again. The old HMRC site was not broke (injured in parts, though) so why fix it.   

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By Ian McTernan CTA
19th Nov 2014 12:51

manuals, etc

There has been a slow push by HMRC to define the manuals as the actual rules, and then to 'dumb down' with the new Gov site.

The manuals aren't the law, they are HMRC's interpretation of it.  Practitioners should be aware of this.

Having tried to find some useful information recently on VAT and been directed to the GOV site, after 45 minutes of fruitless searching and links to meaningless rubbish I gave up and contacted a VAT specialist to try and find out which bit of legislation applied.

No idea what the purpose of the new site is or who designed it, but at present is feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  The old HMRC site worked much better than this!

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By pauljohnston
19th Nov 2014 13:55

I have a client

who used the .gov site and got the wrong answer.  THe old HMRC made it so much clearer.

As others have said, if it aint broke dont fixit.

This reminds me of advertising people having a new image just to keep themselves in work.


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By mydoghasfleas
21st Nov 2014 09:45

If this was a car sold to thousands

of users there would be recall notices going out with half page notices in the papers, news articles and accompanying social media frenzy. 

As it is we have a cut and shut job, does anyone remember the Johnny Cash song, "One piece at a time"?

I'd get it one piece at a time
And it wouldn't cost me a dime
You'll know it's me when I come through your town
I'm gonna ride around in style
I'm gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is a round.

Elvis may have left the building but Mr Cash has returned as an HMG IT consultant.

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By AndrewV12
21st Nov 2014 12:23

Here we go again Government computer systems

A few of the boxes have been ticked regarding the public sectors computer systems:


Duplication of advice

Not user freindly

Misleading content


Just got to wait for the cost and the expected timetable of its launch, moved on to a new system and the rest of the not fit for purpose boxes will be ticked.  

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By kris.brains
21st Jan 2015 09:14

HMRC, Charity Commission, Companies House.  Heaven help us all.

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By pauljohnston
21st Jan 2015 09:28

Companies House

Just found out that the "upgrade" to do with electronic submissions has been put back again.  I wonder if it will be put in place at the height of the election.

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