back to article The Revenue achieved RECORD numbers of e-tax returns ... by NOT shifting to GOV.UK

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was forced to take radical steps to keep the British government's cash rolling in, as its deadline to move its websites into the new GOV.UK digital empire drew near. HMRC even opened a centre for a digital team in Newcastle, one that looked and felt like a clone of the Cabinet Office's …

  1. theOtherJT

    Same as any website...

    You let a "Designer" anywhere near it, they break it.

    Ever since that dick Ive made such an enormous name for himself by dumbing down Macs, the mantra in design is "If I don't need it, remove it. If you need it, remove it anyway."

    We had no end of things removed from our website in the last refresh in order to make it "Cleaner and more attractive" with the justification that they were rarely used anyway. Of course, no replacement was implemented for the few people who _did_ use them, no matter how rarely, because it would spoil the "look and feel" of the site.

    1. bep

      Re: Same as any website...

      That's the crux of it really. "We've found only five per cent of visitors use that particular function." So you remove it, and piss off five per cent of your visitors. On a government website, five per cent of users can be quite a lot of people. And a government website is NOT like a business website. You cannot choose to ignore a certain set of people, since you are public servants and are paid to provides services to EVERYONE, not just this or that percentage. So Mr Wiseguy better start 'feeding the trolls' again, because they are paying his wages.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    The only thing wrong with the "old" HMRC site is you cannot enter punctuation or carriage returns in the "notes/comments" box of the self assessment form. Otherwise, LEAVE IT ALONE!!!!

  4. John Lilburne

    Wife had to make a TAX return this year ...

    ... went through all the online forms which seemed to be fairly clear and easy but the assessment came out at £200 more than it should have been. The discrepency was the amount that had already been deducted from the state pension, didn't seem to be anyway to correct that on the forms (will sort out a rebate later). Then when it came to make the payment it shunted us off to some other website where the information was not clear at all, they wanted a reference, gave a description of what it should look like, and next to the description something that looked like it was an example.

    No where did it say "here is the effing number you use" so we ended up making a phone call and navigating the call centre to find some one that could point out where the information was. They didn't seem to have any idea as to what page we were actually looking at on the screen, and had us go though some other mechanism to navigate to another part of the online tax system where they knew the reference was.

    HMRC have always been helpful, but last year they just seemed as lost as everyone.

  5. Mike Banahan

    Did they hire the Barclay's designers?

    Looks like they hired the muppets who have made Barclay's online banking so slow and barely usable. Or is there an infinite supply of these clowns available whenever anyone thinks it's time to spoil something that users have found the workarounds for?

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Did they hire the Barclay's designers?

      Looks like they hired the muppets who have made Barclay's online banking so slow and barely usable.

      No, the gov.uk site looks as though it's been designed to make Barclays look good by comparison. At least the Barclays site contains the services I need to use and I can find them with only moderate unnecessary faffing around amongst the draff.

  6. JoshOvki
    Trollface

    Design...

    " It's one of the least popular website makeovers a state body has ever undertaken."

    The state body was required because otherwise the El Reg would be the least popular website makeovers.

    1. Glenturret Single Malt

      Re: Design...

      The BBC, The Guardian and The Scotsman have all recently created considerably more unhappiness than The Register.

  7. Richard Jones 1

    It is a Plan

    Make the web sites so god awful that the punters have to telephone to get anywhere. That way more staff get employed and the unemployment goes down, master stroke!

    1. Red Bren

      Re: It is a Plan

      That way more income from premium rate phone numbers goes up and top rate of income tax goes down, master stroke!

      FTFY

  8. nematoad Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Sigh.

    " At its height, the project employed some 200 staff - but many have since moved on."

    I'm not surprised, we always used to call that sort of thing "Shit and run"

    Or it could be that the rats have noticed that the ship is about to sink.

    And to think we are paying for this fiasco.

    You couldn't make this up.

  9. Red Bren
    Pint

    Isn't this just a symptom of change culture?

    You have a system that provides a service; it's a bit slow and dated but generally works. A consultancy is brought in to give it a revamp. What happens next? Do they advise getting a bit of new kit and refresh of the front end for a few hundred £K and minimal commission? Of course not, they're looking after number one! They're going to insist you need to rip it all up and start again, with no attempt to keep the best parts of the legacy system. Indeed, backwards compatibility with the legacy system will be deliberately obstructed so you can't run the new system in parallel and compare the two. The new system will be hailed as a great success, with no objective evidence. The consultants will walk away with their fat commission, the senior management will walk away (to work for the consultants) with their fat bonuses. When the whole house of cards comes crashing down, the new senior management (who used to work for the consultants) can claim it was all the fault of the previous management, then a consultancy is brought in to advise on how to sort out the mess. The whole cycle starts again and no one is ever held accountable.

    It's enough to drive you to drink!

  10. Gordon 11

    Really?

    Odd.

    I received a letter last year saying that as my circumstances had changed I'd had a Self Assessment record set up for me.

    And that was on gov.uk (http://hmrc.gov.uk/yourtaxreturn).

    Which all worked - although this does probably explain why it has an orange BETA icon on it.

    And, J.G.Harston will be pleased to know that you still cannot put carriage returns into the comment field.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      Beta ?? Think yourself lucky. Take a look at Dart Charge ( https://www.dartford-crossing-charge.service.gov.uk/Home/Choose ) Yes, it's "Alpha" (well, it is today, and has been since launch)

      Yep, that's right, they went live with Alpha code. FFS. You really, really couldn't make it up. Bunch of incompetent twats.

      Unless they forgot to change the tagging. In which case, they're just a bunch of incompetent twats.

      Mind you, reports of the experiences of people calling the contact centre for Dart Charge suggest that's at the alpha stage of implementation too.

  11. gerdesj Silver badge

    Axe ground

    I followed the link to the GOV.UK spew of links.

    There's a filter box to the left - I used it. I then bookmarked the page. That''s a much better route to Self Assessment than the contorted "start with a Google" that I usually use each year.

    Cheers

  12. Nigel Titley

    And still no IPv6

    And there *still* isn't an IPv6 AAAA record for it.

  13. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Hmm

    "something that users have found the workarounds for"

    Well there's your answer.

    If you hadn't found a way around the gratuitous annoying hurdles they wouldn't have had to build new ones.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HMRC's core portal was never really an information source that was aimed at businesses, more accountants and tax subject matter experts, thats where Businesslink fitted in. When they got rid of Businesslink along with Direct.gov GDS didn't build a business focussed portal, preferring a citizen focussed "minimal viable product".

    Now there is a significant gap for business focussed information for SME's, the engine house of the economy.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gov UK +1

    Frankly my take is that gov.uk is a vast improvement fundamentally.

    1. It was thought out and designed

    2. It can vastly simplify access to government services

    3. It has helped reduce the number junk gov dept websites

    4. It enables UK Gov to centralise competent staff to benefit all departments

    Gov.uk and data.gov.uk are a fundamental step in the right direction...and if anything this smells like a power struggle.

    As a UK tax payer, I don't appreciate paying for a hairdresser turned webmaster in every department to make yet another junk website.

    1. timblackwell

      Re: Gov UK +1

      If you think that this was designed and thought out, try going to

      https://www.gov.uk/pip-checker

      Tell it you claim DLA and were born in, say 1960.

      Make sense of the resulting text.

      1. TotallyInfo

        Re: Gov UK +1

        Did that and the result was perfectly understandable! Complex, yes as there are quite a few exceptions but that isn't anything to do with the gov.uk design.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Gov UK +1

      I can see why you'd post as an AC !

      I too can see the idea behind it, and that was good. Unfortunately it's the only good thing I've seen out of it.

      Good visual design is good, but it's useless if the underlying functionality is missing. Yes, some of the other Gov sites are/were crap - but at least they did work. Most of what I've had to use gov.uk for has been a big "WTF ?" as the underlying functionality has been missing.

      Yes it's nice to have good form along with good function. But if I have to choose between form or function - then I'd take function any day. Seems like they took function, and tossed it away.

      And thumbs up for HMRC keeping control of their own stuff, I really really hate to think what doing a tax return would be like in telly tubby land.

  16. traydee
    FAIL

    Government as a Platform

    Government as a Platform will fail.

    Big time. Not agency big. Not department big. Government big.

    The arrogance induced blindness has led these cultists to believe their own propaganda. They can't see that the very thing they were fighting - big complex IT projects - is exactly what they think they can get right.

    When - not if, when they screw this up two things will happen. One - everything will get fked. We'll evacuate the UK to somewhere where the non-Digital IT actually works well enough. Two - the cultists and their diesel-powered commsn machine will keep putting out spin that it is all just fine. Like Universal Credit.

    Newton's First Law of IT - big shit fails big time.

    Netwon's Second Law of IT - humans, even GDS contractors, can only do shit up to a certain size before it goes shit. That size is pretty small.

    Newton's Third Law of IT - it's never the contractors fault. By definition. Plus they won't be around to clean the shit off the walls.

  17. Ben XO

    Personally I found that the GDS portion of filing my self assessment tax return this year - which included online identity verification, to allow me to log into the old directgov site - worked very well. Both the old and new parts worked together quite harmoniously.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why were lessons from Gateway not learned?

    Reading The Register accounts of GOV.UK and GDS I am mildly confused.

    As a worker on the Government Gateway project in the early 2000's I was both impressed and driven by the management team as well as my fellow colleagues. The project had been rescued from the original contractors after being a near disaster! The architecture was/is sound, the design and coding was robust and tight, and the Testing was probably the best I've seen on any software project. It was not exactly a 90-day implementation - more like 2-3 years - but still it was on time, on budget and a very successful software project I was proud to be involved in; albeit in a small way.

    So what has happened? Why am I reading about disasters? Why have lessons not be learned? I still use Gateway as my template 10 years on for how a large project should be run. So I fail to understand why GDS & GOV.UK is such a mess - Gateway showed the way so why not follow it? Is it someones Ego or what?

  19. Ultonian

    To give gov.uk its dues, I haven't used it as anything like a Power User but I like it. It generally gets me the information I need quickly, it is responsive, easy to use - pretty much all I have needed so far. If there are bits missing from the legacy sites that are important then that's a failure in execution but the principle behind the revamp was sound, and sorely needed.

    Coming from Northern Ireland where things were particularly bad (government agencies whose idea of an online service was providing you a PDF to download and post to them) this was like a revelation.

    If there are bits missing then they should be added in - I do really hope they aren't treating it as 'job done' or it will end up being left to rot.

    1. Disgusted of Cheltenham

      PDF to download and post - sounds much the same as the process in

      https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney/make-lasting-power

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