HMRC signs £1.7m partner to expand and improve ‘bulk data exploitation’ platform

Cloud-based system allows users to access and analyse large amounts of unstructured data held by tax department

Credit: Nick Youngson/Alpha Stock Images/CC BY-SA 3.0

HM Revenue and Customs has signed a £1.7m deal to support the ongoing development and expansion of the big data analysis platform used to support investigations into tax offences.

The department began developing the “bulk data exploitation capability” (BDEC) platform in 2018. The creation of the system – a secure environment which allows about 200 users from HMRC’s compliance unit to access large, unstructured data sets – was supported by tech consultancy Equal Experts.

In October, the tax agency issued a new tender for a supplier to “continue developing the platform as it takes on more use cases and responds to evolving business requirements for bulk data exploitation”.

Although various firms engaged with the procurement opportunity via online questions – including eight firms that began filling out a formal bid – only one completed the application process: Equal Experts.

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The incumbent provider has thus been retained on a new two-year deal, which came into effect on 27 January, according to newly published commercial documents. The contract will be worth about £1.7m to the firm. HMRC also has the option of signing a six-month extension once the engagement expires in January 2024.

The BDEC system, which is housed in an Amazon Web Services environment, was created to provide “data scientists, analysts and caseworkers [with] a secure platform to access, analyse and exploit bulk data that can’t be processed on the main IT system for a variety of reasons… including data security, size and complexity of data, and lack of appropriate tools and processing power on main IT network”. 

Users of the platform are all from HMRC’s compliance and risk operations, the remit of which is to investigate tax offences and, ultimately, ensure that government collects all money owed to the Exchequer.

About 200 civil servants are currently using BDEC “to support a number of live [and] active investigations and projects”.

Over the next two years, Equal Experts will be tasked with providing ongoing maintenance and support of the platform, including “onboarding, upskilling and troubleshooting”. The firm will also be expected to enable the addition of new data sources and functionality.

“HMRC staff need continued access to existing tools, an analytical environment where they can use tools like RStudio and Jupyter on large unstructured data sets, and access to new AWS services as they become available,” the contract notice said. “New data needs to be processed quickly and securely with the most appropriate technology and made available to authorised analysts and investigators.”

Work will be conducted largely remotely, supplemented by periodic visits to HMRC facilities in London and Manchester.


Sam Trendall

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