What can agents expect in the coming months?
The Agent Online Self Serve (AOSS) project is pushing ahead with development of the new online service for tax agents. The AOSS team has visited a number of agents to understand how you work with your clients, the processes in your offices and how you interact with current HMRC services.
This research has been invaluable and has enabled the team to identify what agents will need as users of the new service and the solutions we need to build. This is how new products are built by government; using a process known as ‘agile’ methodology we listen to what the user does, how they work, where their pain points are and then work hard to come up with the right answers.
The team is now focused on two important areas of work. Agents told us that they needed to be able to view PAYE liabilities and payments on behalf of their employer clients. We’re therefore building an initial service for testing that will show agents what a client owes and what’s been paid.
We’ve been testing the first versions of this service. Feedback has been positive so we’re planning a ‘private beta’ trial in the coming months. This will not be open to everyone and certainly won’t be a finished product but it will provide feedback to help us improve the system. We’ll then gradually open this service up to more agents and eventually all agents who want to will be able to access the new service.
The right information
An important part of providing a new agents’ service will be ‘future proofing’ the information held in HMRC about agents and their clients. We’d like to be sure that, when we move to the new service, the information we hold is as close as possible to 100% correct.
We’re therefore planning to ask agents who wish to access their employer PAYE clients’ liabilities and payments to confirm that they act for the clients we think they represent. This will give us an accurate picture of who’s working on behalf of whom.
We know that checking client lists will present a challenge for some firms so we’ll work to determine the best way to ensure that accurate and complete information transfers to the new service – with the minimum disruption to business.
There’s so much more
During user testing agents told us that the initial proposals for verifying their firm (identity assurance for organisations) were too time consuming. We therefore now plan to enable agents to use their existing Government Gateway credentials to log onto AOSS and use the new service.
We also know that many agents use third party software to transact with HMRC and to store their credentials and client lists. We’ll be talking to third party software developers about how their products could support and complement AOSS and we’ll let you know how these discussions progress.
We learnt a lot from our user research and ‘private beta’ testing will tell us more about what agents need. We’re also working on a new agents’ homepage, online authorisation and the AOSS registration process for agents. We don’t have a timeframe for these services yet but they’re all part of our plans for redesigning and simplifying how agents work with HMRC.
If you would like to know more about AOSS please post your comments and questions on this blog. We’d like to know what you think and how new digital services for agents could help you to provide a better service for your clients.