With just over a year to go before Making Tax Digital (MTD) goes live - and only weeks ahead of the initial pilot scheme - HMRC government gateway programme director Mike Howes-Roberts revealed that the infrastructure that underpins online services for agents is going to be rebuilt.
In a blog post last month, Howes-Roberts explained that the existing government gateway maintained by the Department of Work and Pensions will be switched off in April 2018.
Before then, Howes-Roberts and his team will need to build a new identity engine and user traffic hub to control 123 government digital services catering for 50m active users.
HMRC alone accounts for 53 of the 123 services hosted on the existing government gateway.
Personal tax accounts will be unaffected, as they use the separate Verify identity service hosted on GOV.UK and fed by trusted third party agencies such as Verisign and The Post Office.
This means that taxpayers will be able to participate in the MTD pilot, but leaves agents who rely on the gateway for access to client data in the cold.
According to reports from specialist software developers, HMRC has been telling them not to expect the mechanisms for agents to interact with MTD systems to be in place until May 2018 - by which time some landlords will need to be filing their updates online.
In his blog, Howes-Roberts wrote, “I’m working through the detail with my team right now and working closely with other departments. For me, that means a genuinely open door and an honest and candid dialogue.”
The government gateway transformation blog post was the latest episode in a long-running turf war between the Government Digital Service (responsible for GOV.UK) and HMRC.
"With everything that is going on with MTD this big change has kind of gone unnoticed by some," BTCSoftware director Rob Ellis told AccountingWEB.
In spite of Whitehall's back room dramas Ellis, was confident specialist tax developers like BTC could cope.
"The government gateway transformation, whilst a big task for HMRC, should have no impact on end users of software which already interacts with the existing government gateway. That is provided HMRC fulfil their obligations to deliver the new service, and software vendors make the necessary changes in a timely fashion."
Accountants, and their professional representatives and software suppliers might have a lot to say in the next 12 months.
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.