HMRC quietly altered the number of characters required for accountants and taxpayers to access the government gateway, leaving some unable to log in.
When HMRC updated its login page in July, account users were asked to enter passwords between eight and 12 characters. However, this password change was brought in with little fanfare, which prevented those attempting to sign in with their longer 15 character password from accessing their account.
Since AccountingWEB raised this issue, HMRC has rectified the login page issue to "accommodate those users who have passwords greater than 12 characters".
The Revenue announced the changes in the VAT online guidance document (no longer available online), published on 29 July, advising those with long password to enter the first 12 characters, and this will be used as their new HMRC password.
“HMRC are aware that some customers on registering their account typed in a ‘long’ password but to meet our requirements the password was set at the first 12 characters typed in the box,” the Revenue said.
“These customers were able to access HMRC services by typing in the ‘long’ password because the first 12 characters matched the password that was set at registration and the additional characters were not required.”
HMRC explained that the new sign in page brings added security, so this mean “any extra characters typed in the password box will cause a login failure”.
AccountingWEB member Corinius raised awareness of the password change on Any Answers after their client was unable to file their June VAT return. Even resetting their password had no effect. It was then the AccountingWEB member realised the Gateway rejected passwords longer than 12 characters.
Login concern spread to AccountingWEB member AndyLim, who was unable to sign in to agent services a couple of days after the gateway updated on 18 July. After contacting the online services helpdesk, the member was told that their access had been “stopped or not recognised by the new system” and that he had to request a new code which would take two to 10 days.
Meanwhile, AccountingWEB member Mbee1 has suffered other irritations when grappling with the new login procedure. “What is also annoying is that the new login page whilst it remembers your user id it you cannot ask it to remember your password,” they said. “Mistype it more than three times and you're locked out for 2 hours.”
Writing as they wait out their lock-out, the member warned others how multiple staff using the same passwords can cause an unexpected delay if anyone mistypes.
Explaining the change, an HMRC spokesman said: “In July, HMRC introduced a new login page to improve the customer experience, strengthen security and enhance performance and resilience. The new login page is based on core Government Gateway design and only supported passwords of 12 characters or less. The login page has now been changed to accommodate those users who have passwords greater than 12 characters.”
Did you suffer a similar experience? Were you locked out without warning by the new gateway update?
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.