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HMRC project budget on GOV.UK transition revealed

1st Apr 2015
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Access via a freedom of information (FOI) request to the actual and budgeted costs of the project to move HMRC's old website to GOV.UK raises some questions about the claimed savings of the transition. 

According to the figures provided by HMRC, the budgeted costs in May 2014 for elements of the transition that weren't "business as usual" work were estimated at £942,000. 

But actual costs as at the end of the project in March 2015 are expected to be £40,000 more. 

Actual costs were provided under FOI up to December 2014 for HMRC-invoiced figures and did not include Government Digital Service (GDS) costs unless specifically invoiced to the Revenue. The further costs to March 2015 were ongoing costs above normal activities up to project closure.

Budgeted and actual figures spent on the project were: 

  • £153,000 on three permanent members of staff: head of web transition, senior project manager and project support.

  • £60,000 budgeted for contractors to design the web content; £35,000 was spent.

  • Travel and subsistence costs for staff were £50,000 less than the £105,000 budgeted for.

  • Budgeted costs for IT costs, including content changes, IT equipment for mobile working, network/infrastructure information requests and API development were £574,000. 

  • The actual IT amounted to £737,000 - £640,000 by the end of December, with a further £97,000 to be invoiced by March. This included a oneoff £500,000 payment to GDS, for "HMRC specific related migration and content design work" which, according to the FOI, wasn't budgeted for.

  • In addition, around £50,000 was budgeted for web content migration training, but only £2,000 was actually spent on this.

The government claimed HMRC’s transition from "switching off old systems" will save £164,000 in its first year up to April 2016.

After this the savings are expected to rise to £202,000 in each year thereafter - a 22% saving on non staff-related web hosting costs in 2014/15. This is against an "assumed 15% saving Cabinet Office expected would be made".

This means it may take HMRC until around 2020 to recoup the total cost of the project.

In September 2013, web transition work was being undertaken by HMRC as part of its business as usual activities.

Many AccountingWEB members remain concerned about the quality of content on the GOV.UK website.

Most of the transition of the non-technical content was done by the GDS, and fact checked by HMRC subject experts. However the manuals, tax tables and more technical guidance has just started to be moved over and has had to be written by HMRC tax experts in a new format.

AccountingWEB has raised the question of whether relying on GDS rather than contractors may have contributed to the content quality issues flagged up by our members. HMRC has yet to comment on the FOI. Its response is expected and it will be featured in a later article.

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Replies (60)

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By JCresswellTax
01st Apr 2015 11:26

All of this cost

To make something worse....

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By AndrewV12
01st Apr 2015 11:43

Government Computer systems

Why is it Government computer projets always go over budget and in some cases are never used.  Why cannot Government departments state exactly what they want and if they do not get it, they are not going to pay for it.

 

Most Computer systems  are a nightmare to use and very expenses when all/final costs are added up.  People are scared to say this system is crap, because it may not look good on them, if in doubt keep computer systems simple and basic.

 

Software developers are like the mafia with ponytails and loud shirts. 

 

 

 

 

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Replying to DJKL:
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By MorganM
01st Apr 2015 12:27

Off the record

This is a 'friend of a friend' quote so please don't rely on its validity.

I was told some years ago, whilst they were planning a new computer project, those tasked with creating the system interviewed members of staff within the department. Many members of staff were not forthcoming with their total requirements through fear that the new system would reduce the reliance on man-power and put them out of a job.

While I'm not saying this ever happened, we've all heard of poor jobs being carried out in some cases to prolong the contract or increase overall costs. Maybe I'm just forever sceptical.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By rlweb
01st Apr 2015 12:39

"Software developers are like

"Software developers are like the mafia with ponytails and loud shirts."

The software developers don't have a say in it, they make what they are told too. Times have changed and developers are not same as they once were.

Its the requirements created by the stakeholders, which are too fault. 

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By dl100tr
01st Apr 2015 12:07

GOV Website

I can't believe they paid anything for it - its dreadful!!  I can't understand the constant need to keep changing all this. 

My real gripe is what they have done to the rates of exchange tables - which I really rely on.  Used to be a really useful pdf in a proper table with the main currency rates at the top where you wanted them.  Now its just a csv in alpha order - so to get to the US dollar you have to drag all the way to the bottom.  I guess I'm just getting to old for all this!

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Replying to paul.benny:
By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 01:46

Why?

dl100tr wrote:

I can't believe they paid anything for it - its dreadful!!  I can't understand the constant need to keep changing all this. 

My real gripe is what they have done to the rates of exchange tables - which I really rely on.  Used to be a really useful pdf in a proper table with the main currency rates at the top where you wanted them.  Now its just a csv in alpha order - so to get to the US dollar you have to drag all the way to the bottom.  I guess I'm just getting to old for all this!

Why don't you sort the table?

I suppose it's easier for the people to compile the file rather than doing what is convenient for users. But when did HMRC consider users?

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By Harrison88
02nd Apr 2015 08:57

CSV

petersaxton wrote:

Now its just a csv in alpha order - so to get to the US dollar you have to drag all the way to the bottom.  I guess I'm just getting to old for all this!

A CSV allows greater ability to manipulate the data (e.g. sort it in Excel, reference in other sheets, etc).

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Replying to kerrysmith000:
By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 10:29

Wrong

Harrison88 wrote:

petersaxton wrote:

Now its just a csv in alpha order - so to get to the US dollar you have to drag all the way to the bottom.  I guess I'm just getting to old for all this!

A CSV allows greater ability to manipulate the data (e.g. sort it in Excel, reference in other sheets, etc).

I didn't say what you quoted me as saying. You seem confused.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By dl100tr
04th Apr 2015 20:44

Why?
dl100tr wrote:

I can't believe they paid anything for it - its dreadful!!  I can't understand the constant need to keep changing all this. 

My real gripe is what they have done to the rates of exchange tables - which I really rely on.  Used to be a really useful pdf in a proper table with the main currency rates at the top where you wanted them.  Now its just a csv in alpha order - so to get to the US dollar you have to drag all the way to the bottom.  I guess I'm just getting to old for all this!

Why don't you sort the table?

I suppose it's easier for the people to compile the file rather than doing what is convenient for users. But when did HMRC consider users?

 

Of course I could sort the table but I keep my own table of the handful of rates I use on a daily basis.  The original option of downloading a pdf was good for me as it carried the main rates on the first two pages & I could access them quickly & add the ones I wanted to my own Excel file.  Its just a question of convenience - having a pdf was convenient for me but, as you say, possibly not so convenient for HMRC compilers.  Others in this thread have commented that having a csv is better as you can do more with it.  I understand that point and I'm not suggesting that others might not find this a better option.  I believe that there used to be the option to download as csv or pdf.  If the new site is aimed more at the general public that professionals it seems to me a pdf would have been far better...

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By farrcorfe
01st Apr 2015 12:12

...the Germans have a word for all this

Verschlimmbesserung (apparent improvements which only make matters worse)

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Replying to Jay_K:
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By nrslater
01st Apr 2015 14:35

HMRC project budget on GOV.UK transition revealed

In this country we have "Hutber's law".  "Improvement means deterioration".

[Patrick Hutber former City Editor of The Sunday Telegraph.]

 

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By johnjenkins
01st Apr 2015 12:20

I can think of a better

one.  ScheiSe (it should have been a B looking letter but I'm not up on word).

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By RICHARDBIBBY
01st Apr 2015 12:25

Waste of money

They should have wasted our money on something else, or better still not spend it.

GOV website makes simple things more difficult as it is so dumbed down. What I find infuriating is that many documents and guides are not available as pdf's so can't be downloaded. A lot of the HMRC forms can only be filled out online so you don't know the questions before you start and you only see a small section of the form at each point. When you get to the end you can print it off and send it in the post to HMRC, groundbreaking!  Time consuming and painful to use.

 

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By jamiea4f
01st Apr 2015 12:32

So they spent..
A million quid of our taxes to make something worse. Well that makes sense. Got to spend all those late filing fees on something I suppose. Might have been better spent investigating why the Corporation Tax return Adobe download no longer works on a Mac.

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By raybackler
01st Apr 2015 13:03

Mac

@jamiea4f  Just had the problem myself this morning with the Corporation Tax Return

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Replying to CW2012:
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By jamiea4f
02nd Apr 2015 12:56

Corporation tax return
Yep started in February, rang HMRC who all use PCs and they know nothing, only that it works on PCs. No mention of what has caused Macs to stop working. Upshot is I've had to buy a PC, just to file Corporation Tax returns, as none of the software suppliers who deal with CT returns make anything Mac compatible. Still luckily you can get the 100% capital allowance on your new unplanned for PC eh.

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By raybackler
01st Apr 2015 13:06

Fixed Price contracts

@rlweb  These should be the norm for software development and should not then overrun in cost.  To get a valid fixed price you need a solid design specification, so I agree with you about the stakeholders.  I wonder who was the stakeholder in charge of the initial design specification?

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By 90517Do
01st Apr 2015 13:10

Travel & Subsistence??

Travel & Subsistence??

Why are we paying for this?

£50,000 less than budget!!!! How much was the budget!!!???

I need to go and make myself a cup of tea

 

 

 

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By emanresu
01st Apr 2015 14:17

..

90517Do wrote:
£50,000 less than budget!!!! How much was the budget!!!???

The problem with these projects is not the implementation but in the design documentation where B cannot make sense of a document A has written - even though it is, to A, quite obvious.

A bit like your quoting the first half of one of A's sentences and then posing a question which is very clearly answered by the second half of that same sentence.

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By MattG
01st Apr 2015 14:16

Actually not far off budget....

90517Do wrote:

£50,000 less than budget!!!! How much was the budget!!!???

£105,000.

Although I'll agree the new site is worse and I would cast serious doubt on the savings figures, I will make 2 points in HMRCs favour:

1) Being over budget by only 4.25% is (sadly!) rather good for a public sector project (and I have experience of a few....)

2) A payback period of about 5 years doesn't seem too bad.

That said I return to my initial doubts over the quoted savings figures (I've seen my share of made up public sector savings figures too!) and the emphasis on the new 'product' being worse.

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By Harrison88
02nd Apr 2015 08:55

Wow!

There is a lot of hate in these comments.

In reality, the system used is much better than the old system. The search is better, it is the function of all of the Government services so it will all look the same. They haven't finished porting the documents and once HMRC get their head around using it the service will be better. 

The GOV team have actually won awards for the quality of framework for the site, its openness, etc. A large percentage of services that have switched look better and are easier to navigate.

People really are scared of change hey?

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Replying to kathyray:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
02nd Apr 2015 09:27

Some changes are rightly feared

Harrison88 wrote:
In reality, the system used is much better than the old system. The search is better, it is the function of all of the Government services so it will all look the same. They haven't finished porting the documents and once HMRC get their head around using it the service will be better. 

The GOV team have actually won awards for the quality of framework for the site, its openness, etc. A large percentage of services that have switched look better and are easier to navigate.

People really are scared of change hey?

Won awards from whom? There are a lot of "awards" out there that are simple industry back-slapping exercises with no relation to the quality of those awarded. If the GOV site has only won such awards, then that is meaningless.

As for fear of change, perhaps you could review the comments on this story about the update and get back to us. Are you really saying all the concerns raised there (especially the dumbing down ones) are "fear of change"?

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Replying to maureenme:
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By Harrison88
02nd Apr 2015 10:46

GOV

stepurhan wrote:

Won awards from whom? There are a lot of "awards" out there that are simple industry back-slapping exercises with no relation to the quality of those awarded. If the GOV site has only won such awards, then that is meaningless.

As for fear of change, perhaps you could review the comments on this story about the update and get back to us. Are you really saying all the concerns raised there (especially the dumbing down ones) are "fear of change"?

I do take the point that the information should not be dumbed down. I think the HMRC manuals should continue to reflect the nature that they are for the inspectors, available to the public for greater clarity, transparency and understanding. However, I don't think the project should be judged before it is finished. Articles are not removed from the old site until they are finished being ported to the new.

The site is put on a pedestal as a very successful Government website. For web designers across the UK it is known for its success in design and implementation, especially back-end. Unlike other Government projects this one relies on a small team of individuals who know what they are doing to ensure it runs to plan. If, as has been previously suggested, staff at HMRC are being resistant then they should be blamed rather than the GOV.UK team at GDS. The blog the team run is well followed for learnings and technical articles by web designers/coders. They have done a great job of the DVLA port and I'm sure it will get better as they port more HMRC stuff over. They can only really work with what HMRC give them though...

Design Museum’s Design of the Year award 2013 - https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2013/04/17/gov-uk-wins-design-of-the-year-2013/

I just think they should be given a chance to finish before people slate them. No one likes change when you're used to something but I get the impression this is the similar response to Cloud Accounting got when that first come out. Willing to eat my hat (need to buy one first) if it is totally unusable for us.

 

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Replying to bernard michael:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
02nd Apr 2015 12:55

Working website

Harrison88 wrote:
Design Museum’s Design of the Year award 2013 - https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2013/04/17/gov-uk-wins-design-of-the-year-2013/
Unless I'm misunderstanding it, this is an award for the attractiveness of the website, not for its functionality. If you believe otherwise, please provide a link that shows the criteria used for judgement properly.

Quote:
I just think they should be given a chance to finish before people slate them. No one likes change when you're used to something but I get the impression this is the similar response to Cloud Accounting got when that first come out. Willing to eat my hat (need to buy one first) if it is totally unusable for us.
I'm sorry, but "wait until its finished" isn't good enough for the HMRC site. Getting tax wrong can have severe repercussions, both for the tax paid and in penalties for failing to comply correctly. A site that doesn't enable people to do get things right, be it through incorrect information or dumbing down that misleads people from its simplicity, should not have been made live. This site should have been tested by actual users within an inch of its life before going live. The grumbles we are coming up with now indicate that this has not happened.
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Replying to kathyray:
By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 10:40

Nonsense

Harrison88 wrote:

There is a lot of hate in these comments.

In reality, the system used is much better than the old system. The search is better, it is the function of all of the Government services so it will all look the same. They haven't finished porting the documents and once HMRC get their head around using it the service will be better. 

The GOV team have actually won awards for the quality of framework for the site, its openness, etc. A large percentage of services that have switched look better and are easier to navigate.

People really are scared of change hey?

What does this mean: "the quality of framework for the site, its openness, etc."

"A large percentage of services that have switched look better and are easier to navigate." The HMRC site doesn't look better.

"People really are scared of change hey?"

My complaint about the site is on a technical level. What they say is usually simplistic and mainly wrong. If you want to give the impression of being some great pioneer for change I would choose something better than the tax advice on gov.uk. It seems to have been written by inexperienced children.

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By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 11:21

Why?

"However, I don't think the project should be judged before it is finished."

So we should keep quiet when we see utter nonsense being spouted on the site because "it is not finished"? We should wait until it's finished and and even more money is wasted and then the project is scrapped?

I don't think we should let work experience people prepare such an important website.

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Replying to sarah douglas:
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By Harrison88
02nd Apr 2015 11:59

Harsh...

petersaxton wrote:

"However, I don't think the project should be judged before it is finished."

So we should keep quiet when we see utter nonsense being spouted on the site because "it is not finished"? We should wait until it's finished and and even more money is wasted and then the project is scrapped?

I don't think we should let work experience people prepare such an important website.

This is the attitude I am referring to. Of course you are welcome to give on-going feedback on the site. They welcome that. However, these aren't "work experience people". They're fully qualified individuals who are experts in their field. They're trying to balance individual's demands to understand the tax system with our requirements to issue detailed guidance. If you were an individual with no tax experience I'm sure you would have struggled to understand the most basic HMRC manuals. 

This project really isn't expensive. They're doing it pretty cost effectively for how much they need to do. It won't be scrapped - it has been too successful at the initial aim - simplify Government websites and make dealing with the Government easier and more efficient for the average individual.

Like I said, I do recognise the risk of dumbing down and would wholeheartedly agree that there should be backing information which provide sufficient detail for advisers. Almost like an overview and detailed section.

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By JC
02nd Apr 2015 11:40

Web site cost …

In no way defending some of the costs, anyway don't have enough information to judge, however …

Perhaps we should look at the cost commercial websites. Yes they are not simple information text content only & have all sorts of things such as eCommerce, multiple images, sizing, zoom & other goodies which make them a great deal more complex, nevertheless

- Marks & Spencer - £150m

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2562201/Marks-Spencer-launches-long-awaited-150m-website.html

- AutoTrader website revamp - 16+ people, six months, about £2,000,000 - to re-work an existing site rather than building it from scratch

That said there is one question on the subject of API development – in many instances web-services (api’s) are simply a middle tier to bridge the gap between the front end and the underlying data. With this in mind, if the original site has been built properly then it would probably already include a great many of these calls which should mean that for the most part only the front end needs to be redesigned & not necessarily the whole thing, because tyhe interfaces already exist

Without have a great deal more information (FOI for the specs) then it is very difficult to determine where the issues (if any) arise. Anyway never managed so far to get the specs for these Government projects

Perhaps we should be grateful that it is not a project Lorenzo (NHS) - http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/18/nhs-records-system-10bn

@AndrewV12 - '.. Software developers are like the mafia with ponytails and loud shirts ..' - un-necessary offensive comment - guess you don't use computers & prefer the manual approach

Final comment in Gov home page html: <!-- Thanks Martha -->

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By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 12:09

"They're fully qualified

"They're fully qualified individuals who are experts in their field."

Who are they? What are their qualifications?

I see you have still not acknowledged your error in attributing a quote to me. Why not?

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Replying to rockallj:
By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 12:09

Are you guessing?

petersaxton wrote:

"They're fully qualified individuals who are experts in their field."

Who are they? What are their qualifications?

I see you have still not acknowledged your error in attributing a quote to me. Why not?

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Replying to rockallj:
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By Harrison88
02nd Apr 2015 13:07

Reply

petersaxton wrote:

"They're fully qualified individuals who are experts in their field."

Who are they? What are their qualifications?

I see you have still not acknowledged your error in attributing a quote to me. Why not?

Yes, I deleted the wrong section of the quote in my reply. I apologise for my simple error - it should have been a quote of dl100tr. I'm sure you understood my reply though. I was trying to assist with using the functionality of the site. I hope I haven't damaged your reputation by misquoting.

If you want to know what level of detail why not look on the blog I linked to? It shows the team there. I'm referring to web design and technical implementation rather than tax technical by the way.

stepurhan wrote:
I'm sorry, but "wait until its finished" isn't good enough for the HMRC site. Getting tax wrong can have severe repercussions, both for the tax paid and in penalties for failing to comply correctly. A site that doesn't enable people to do get things right, be it through incorrect information or dumbing down that misleads people from its simplicity, should not have been made live. This site should have been tested by actual users within an inch of its life before going live. The grumbles we are coming up with now indicate that this has not happened.

I agree that errors are unacceptable. If you see any, I would recommend flagging that via their feedback form.

I got the impression the grumbles where more related to the way the site looks rather than the actual content as the articles I've seen have been the same as the original manuals, it was just the structure of navigation had changed. Obviously users here have seen differently which has caused them to complain.

I'm afraid I don't have the criteria for the design award. There was a news article to go with it though. 

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By rogertax
02nd Apr 2015 12:26

Government Digital Services

Is GDS in any way linked to EDS (Electronic Data Systems)?

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By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 13:50

"Yes, I deleted the wrong

"Yes, I deleted the wrong section of the quote in my reply. I apologise for my simple error - it should have been a quote of dl100tr. I'm sure you understood my reply though. I was trying to assist with using the functionality of the site. I hope I haven't damaged your reputation by misquoting."

I'll survive.

"If you want to know what level of detail why not look on the blog I linked to? It shows the team there. I'm referring to web design and technical implementation rather than tax technical by the way."

It gives their names but I don't see any evidence of "qualifications". I doubt the vast majority get involved in any detail. I wonder who it is that gets the detail so badly wrong then.

"I agree that errors are unacceptable. If you see any, I would recommend flagging that via their feedback form."

It would be easier to flag what they get right!

"I got the impression the grumbles where more related to the way the site looks rather than the actual content as the articles I've seen have been the same as the original manuals, it was just the structure of navigation had changed. Obviously users here have seen differently which has caused them to complain."

The look of the site is very poor. The way they limit their pages to around 10 pages means that you have to do a lot of navigating. It gives the impression that the tax rules are a lot simpler than they are. Accountants know they are not that simple but non-accountants will just assume the site is correct and end up relying on it. It's not acceptable to get such an important site wrong in so many ways. Some people may forgive them because they have won "awards" but not me.

 

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Replying to Wilson Philips:
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By Harrison88
02nd Apr 2015 15:05

Evolution of the web

petersaxton wrote:

It gives their names but I don't see any evidence of "qualifications". I doubt the vast majority get involved in any detail. I wonder who it is that gets the detail so badly wrong then.

...

The look of the site is very poor. The way they limit their pages to around 10 pages means that you have to do a lot of navigating. It gives the impression that the tax rules are a lot simpler than they are. Accountants know they are not that simple but non-accountants will just assume the site is correct and end up relying on it. It's not acceptable to get such an important site wrong in so many ways. Some people may forgive them because they have won "awards" but not me.

It must be difficult to be so cynical in life all of the time.

Each to their own on the look of the site. The web has evolved over its lifetime and will continue to do so, usually with the aim of benefiting users. This is just one change which reflects the flattening and introduction of more white space into designs. Google's Material Design principles are being rolled out across the web. I agree that the sheer amount of grey on the site can make it difficult at times to spot information you want but it's never been so easy to purchase road tax (as an example).

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David Winch
By David Winch
02nd Apr 2015 15:27

@Harrison88

Firstly thank you for taking the time to provide detailed & reasoned responses to the article & the comments on it.

Secondly I think that what an accountant is looking for from the HMRC website & what a layperson is looking for may be quite different.

For example an accountant might be asking himself something like, 'If the company pays the cost for some purchase for a director personally by the director shopping & paying with a company bank account debit card does the company have to (i) put the item through the company payroll as an equivalent net salary payment after income tax & NI, (ii) as (i) but without any tax adjustment (just NI), (iii) just debit it to director's loan account, (iv) just enter it on a P11D, (v) account for Class 1A NIC on it, or (vi) some combination of the above.'

The best place to look for answers might be HMRC PAYE manuals or P11D guidance.  So that is where the professional is going to want to direct his attention.

A layperson is unlikely to want to quickly access PAYE manuals because he will not be aware that there might be PAYE implications to buying himself some shopping & paying with the company bank account debit card.  He is more likely to ask himself something like, 'If I buy some new work clothes do I get tax relief'.

So the website needs to gently guide him to the potential tax implications of what he has done, perhaps by taking him through a series of questions designed to elicit the relevant information.

But all that guidance will just be a cause of frustration to the accountant.

So maybe there needs to be a separate 'accountants access' route on the website taking you straight into the 'engine room' of HMRC manuals etc.

David

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By JC
02nd Apr 2015 15:30

Quite a lot of info here ...

https://www.gov.uk/service-manual

Whether one agrees with some aspects of the approach or not - at least it is documented

Interesting that they use IaaS (infrastructure as a platform) - supplied by a 3rd party - https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/technical-architects - under hosting

The real issue here is whether this approach is used for all Govt projects and are we comfortable with public companies (Amazon, Google etc.) being given free rein over personal private information held by the Government

Especially knowing the contempt that the likes of Google has for privacy matters

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By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 15:45

Qualifications???

So, you say that these people are well qualified but cannot give any evidence to support your claim.

I ask why you said they were well qualified. Rather than give a sensible answer you prefer to say: "It must be difficult to be so cynical in life all of the time."

I'm not cynical in life all the time but I can tell a bullshitter when I see one.

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By JC
02nd Apr 2015 16:07

Computer programmer contractor job application ...

@petersaxton - by way of an aside

If you apply for a contract job as a programmer there is a very strong likelihood that you will be given a tough interview which will probably include either a 1-2 hour written test or a peer review grilling by a couple of in-house developers

Now bearing in mind that one could have to do this between 1 & 3 times a year and can be dismissed at any time; or not have a contract renewed – this is a pretty demanding approach

and I can assure you that employers in todays world are no pushover; if you cannot perform in this area you are out

Let’s put it another way – when was the last time that any members on this site had to re-apply for their job every 6 months & be subjected to such an onerous regime

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Replying to the_drookit_dug:
By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 19:26

Programmers?

JC wrote:

@petersaxton - by way of an aside

If you apply for a contract job as a programmer there is a very strong likelihood that you will be given a tough interview which will probably include either a 1-2 hour written test or a peer review grilling by a couple of in-house developers

Now bearing in mind that one could have to do this between 1 & 3 times a year and can be dismissed at any time; or not have a contract renewed – this is a pretty demanding approach

and I can assure you that employers in todays world are no pushover; if you cannot perform in this area you are out

Let’s put it another way – when was the last time that any members on this site had to re-apply for their job every 6 months & be subjected to such an onerous regime

I don't think anybody has been criticising the programming. What has been criticised is the design and content. Maybe that is the problem. The "employers" have been employing programmers - giving them a very tough interview on programming - but forgetting that they will ask them to design the site and write the content!

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By Alan Davies
02nd Apr 2015 16:14

Content vs design

The new site is designed in a clear manner that is easy to navigate for the casual user.

But that is also the problem - the main users of the old HMRC website were not casual user but professionals who actually need all the detail as very different tax outcomes can be caused by a few different words.  It is the detail that is important not just the outline information.

Its very easy to go round in circles trying to get more details about a particular subject.  Some websites such as companies house which were very easy to navigate through and are still exactly the same once you get there but the number of clicks from the .gov landing page to get to what you actually want to see seem to have increased.

As for budget I think thats OK for a site of that size with that many pages.

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By petersaxton
02nd Apr 2015 19:37

David Winch's suggestion

His suggestion is so obvious it is amazing that what has been put up on gov.uk shows that nobody responsible for the site has even thought about the different needs of taxpayers and accountants. It looks like the awards they won must have been for stupidity!

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Replying to Alexanderaccounting:
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By Harrison88
03rd Apr 2015 00:29

People skills

petersaxton wrote:

His suggestion is so obvious it is amazing that what has been put up on gov.uk shows that nobody responsible for the site has even thought about the different needs of taxpayers and accountants. It looks like the awards they won must have been for stupidity!

I'm not sure you understand the wider purpose of the site. They haven't just recreated the HMRC site. The site itself aims to be the main source for all interactions with the Government (HMRC and otherwise). They made the framework (content management system) and then utilised that to generate the various sites that are linked via the search and their homepage. The award was for the design/"look & feel" and general usability for the individuals. The site itself has many users and, if you had been bothered to read any of the links various people have posted, is primarily aimed at the individual users. It works great for taxpayers.

What we have mentioned is that this approach doesn't always work when you as a professional adviser need detailed technical data quickly. I personally haven't experienced any issues finding manuals but of course some people have or this thread wouldn't be so long with numerous associated news articles.

We are both in agreement. You just take the approach of slating people for their work to the point of being rude. People skills Peter!

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By petersaxton
03rd Apr 2015 06:20

"if you had been bothered to

"if you had been bothered to read any of the links various people have posted,"

I did read them.

"is primarily aimed at the individual users. It works great for taxpayers."

It doesn't work great if what it says is wrong. Would it be too hard to give the gist of the law for individual taxpayers and then go into greater detail for professionals?

"I personally haven't experienced any issues finding manuals but of course some people have or this thread wouldn't be so long with numerous associated news articles."

If you know they are there and save a link or know other ways how to get into the old site then you can find the manuals.

"You just take the approach of slating people for their work to the point of being rude. People skills Peter!"

Are these examples of your "people skills"?:

“There is a lot of hate in these comments.”

“People really are scared of change hey?”

“It must be difficult to be so cynical in life all of the time.”

You take the approach of lying to support your claim. You said that these people were fully qualified but then produce no evidence to support that. You must have lying skills.

You still persist in wrongly attributing a quote to me. You don't seem to care whether what you say is right or wrong.

The gov.uk website that relates to taxation is very simplistic for one of the most complex areas of interaction between government and citizen. Making out that something is straightforward when people should be getting professional advice is just wrong. The government is right to try to take many people out of tax reporting regarding employment income and small amounts of bank interest received but I don't think that the people involved in the gov.uk have any understanding of tax.

 

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By the_Poacher
03rd Apr 2015 09:22

Another GDS debacle
GDS seems to lead on lots of IT projects cow this government. Have they delivered. anything decent and on budget yet?

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By JC
03rd Apr 2015 11:36

Content Management System …

The site is a CMS framework & not doing anything particularly difficult – nevertheless it does seem as though some are not happy with the granularity, navigation & content. Although opinions on actual site design are subjective  depending upon the audience – some like & other hate things

Any content will be the responsibility of the ‘content writers’ and actually has little to do with the design of the site – rather like a buying a refrigerator – you chose a specified model which remains static but what you put in it constantly changes

It does become quite difficult to determine precisely where people are disappointed if there is a general “don’t like the site” approach and the actual issues are not articulated precisely.

Picking up on @Davids view it would seem as though the main gripe is the dumbed down nature of the content so far as the profession is concerned and also the inability to navigate quickly to the right topic without going through multiple layers (like telephone switchboards – press 1 …) – all of these are down to content rather than the site framework.

However, don’t forget that there are 60m people in the UK & 10-20k accountants so perhaps they were catering for the largest audience with the simplistic approach. In reality why would anyone design something for a fraction of percent of the user base which was incomprehensible to the majority of other users? Perhaps they did get input from a representative selection of non-professional general public and this is the result - do we really know?

Nevertheless, with this in mind it should not be overly challenging to use the same framework for an advanced version of the information to be selected - per @David

Finally, one of the hardest matters to address with development are end users, project sponsors (call them what you will) who quite frankly don’t know what they want in the first place and take the – you show me a prototype & I will tell you if I like it – approach.

That is why one needs to understand the Discovery / Alpha / Beta / Live approach as outlined in their https://www.gov.uk/service-manual - although I would take issue with possibly using an ‘Alpha’ approach (prototyping) as a substitute to preparing a proper in depth spec & getting the users to focus on their requirements

Users failing to give definitive guidance causes massive ‘scope creep’ and a corresponding hike in any budget – whilst some aspects of ‘scope creep’ need to be addressed at the time (because the knock on cost can be 10 times sorting it out later), others need to be postponed to be included in update release x

This is exactly the same as building a house, telling the builder to price the job with electrical sockets in a specified position and then half way through the job changing your mind resulting in an ‘extras’ bill – there are cost implications of indecision & failing to pin things down which seem to come as a surprise to most people & ivevitably blow the budget

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Replying to tltodman:
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By emanresu
03rd Apr 2015 17:07

...

JC wrote:

... although I would take issue with possibly using an ‘Alpha’ approach (prototyping) as a substitute to preparing a proper in depth spec & getting the users to focus on their requirements

Spot on, JC

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David Winch
By David Winch
03rd Apr 2015 12:28

Secrecy & complexity

I do not think secrecy is a problem.  I do not see it as necessary that any information should be available only to accountants.  There is some information which HMRC keep secret (even from accountants) & one can understand that.

But the complexity of the UK tax system means that non-accountants will not recognise which information is relevant & which is not, in many situations.

We see on the AWEB Any Answers section non-accountants asking questions to which they are freely given long & detailed answers, only for them then to reveal some fact which renders that answer irrelevant or mistaken.

To paraphrase an American politician, it's not what you know you don't know that's the problem, it's what you don't know that you don't know!

David

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By petersaxton
03rd Apr 2015 14:04

It would be better

If the site could mention the basics and then go into more detail in the links with warnings to non-taxpayers. It's amazing how often people read up on a subject and obviously don't know one small matter is relevant and totally changes what they should do.

I don't understand this pandering to the majority. Why write something for the majority but not in enough detail for them to get it right. It would be better for the site to at least help accountants to help their clients. What accountants need to know would be more useful for taxpayers in the long term. You can get books showing you how to do work on your house or your car but unless you are good enough to sell your services to the public you are unlikely to be good enough to do a good job.

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Morph
By kevinringer
03rd Apr 2015 14:59

The could have paid me £1 million ...

... and I would have given them their existing hmrc.gov.uk website which is a much better deal than paying someone £1 million to deliver GOV.UK because at least we'd end up with something that is half useful compared to GOV.UK which is 0% useful from a practitioners point of view.

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Morph
By kevinringer
03rd Apr 2015 15:04

And here's something else ...

... the blog is closed for comments until after the election - see https://taxagents.blog.gov.uk/2015/04/01/tax-agents-blog-updates/#commen... everything grinds to a halt. Does that mean all deadlines etc are also in limbo until after the election? I wish.

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