HMRC says it is 'committed' to Verify for individuals

Written by Rebecca Hill on 15 February 2017 in News
News

HMRC has said that it is "committed to Verify as the single identification service for individuals" after it emerged that the department is developing a separate identity assurance programme to the government's flagship GOV.UK Verify platform.

The tax authority currently uses Government Gateway for identity assurance, but this platform will expire in March 2018, and in a blogpost published on Monday, HMRC programme director Mike Howes-Roberts said that it was developing its own identity assurance solution to replace it.

He added that the department was also “exploring options around other government departments also using this replacement service”. 

However, HMRC has now moved to clarify the department's plans, with a statement emphasising that it will use the Government Digital Service's Verify platform for individuals' transactions - but not for businesses.

“HMRC is committed to Verify as the single identification service for individuals and is fully focused on delivering this," a spokesperson said. "The authentication service that HMRC is developing to replace the Government Gateway will complement the existing Verify service for business representatives."

And, hitting back at concerns raised on social media that users may need two accounts to pay their tax online, HMRC said that there were "no plans" to stop HMRC customers from using Verify to access their accounts, adding that the next version of Government Gateway "will be used by business and agent-facing services only, rather than individuals".

This is the same stance as taken by the director general of GDS Kevin Cunnington, who said in an interview with PublicTechnology last year that Verify is constrained to citizens and not agents, as HMRC requires.

Cunnington also noted that Verify worked at a higher level than HMRC needed, because the checks required to make sure government is paying the right people are higher than those needed to verify the identities of those people wanting to pay money in to government.

However, it was noted on social media that the government should be asking why Verify is not able to serve one of its biggest potential customers, with one Twitter user saying that was just as problematic as HMRC "building something new".

The government's transformation strategy, which was published last week, sets its sights on signing up 25 million users to Verify by 2020 - it has currently been used to create accounts 1.11 million times, while Government Gateway has 50 million active accounts.

Verify is available for use with 12 live central government services, but the government has also made it clear that it wants to expand Verify for use in the private sector, with the financial sector being of particular interest.

There are also trials of Verify in local authorities, with 19 councils having signed up to pilot its use for applications for residents' parking permits and bus passes for older people.

Warwickshire County Council, which was one of the first to sign up, is due to launch a private beta for residents to use Verify when reapplying for blue badges online in March 2017. This will run for three months, and will be available to the 750 existing blue badge holders in the county that have previously received qualifying benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions. 

Part of this work will look at the difficulties caused when certain government services rely on data held by a different part of government, and the pilot will be the first to trial a new system that allows a local government service user to consent to a real-time eligibility check against central government data.

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