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Digital Self-Assessment – Beta Assessment

Digital Self Assessment will replace the letters HMRC sends to self assessment customers with email alerts asking them to log in to the new tax account and see the same calls to action in a simpler, clearer way online.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Moving to:
Public Beta


Lead Assessor:
M. Sheldon

Service Manager:
T. Smith

Digital Leader:
M. Dearnley

Assessment report

The Digital Self-Assessment service is seeking permission to launch on the GOV.UK service platform, as it moves from Private Beta to a Public Beta.

Outcome of service assessment

We are pleased to say that the Digital Self-Assessment service has shown sufficient evidence of meeting the pre-April 2014 Digital by Default Service Standard and can launch as a Public Beta service. However, the assessment team did agree that the service in its current form is a feature of “Your tax account”, rather than a service in its own right.


The Digital Self-Assessment team have shown that they are:

  • following good user research practices and have plans for and ongoing testing with real users
  • working with a GDS content designer to ensure the language is as simple and concise as possible
  • following agile methodologies and aim to improve the service based on user feedback
  • considering the service’s safety by carrying out IT health checks and addressing issues raised

Recommendations and comments

There have only been small improvements to Digital Self-Assessment service during the Private Beta. Yet this may be due to the fact it is currently a feature of “Your tax account” and only partially complete.

The team shared improvements to the sign-up screen and the "Your tax account" interstitial pages. But these were not part of the demonstration as they were incomplete. It was noted that a high proportion (third to half) of users of the service had not understood what they were signing up for. So it is important that the team iterate on the feedback of these improvements to reduce this number.

The team have been working with CESG to ensure the safety of the service. But there were some instances where usability had been sacrificed. The assessment team felt that these areas should be reviewed:

  • Routes through the service where users can navigate to dead-end pages with no obvious way of returning.
  • Email content not addressed to the user and with little substantive content

Although the team have an aim to update and improve the service on a frequent basis. There was a lack of clarity as to how frequently, especially within the constraints of HMRC's release process. It is important that the Service Manager is in control of and owns the priority of what is released to the live service and when.

Finally, the assessment team are concerned by HMRC’s restructure of their product teams, into a central delivery team. Points 2, 14 & 19 of the standard emphasise the importance of having a team that can update and improve a service on a frequent basis, led by an empowered Service Manager. Having a central shared delivery team does not allow for this. Users’ needs of the Digital Self-Assessment service will have to be prioritised against the needs of all other exemplars and services. If the Service Manager is unable to iterate their service, then it will not pass the service standard when seeking to move from Public Beta to Live.


In summary, the Digital Self-Assessment service is currently on track to meet the pre-April 2014 Digital by Default Service Standard. The team have continued to user test while building the Private Beta and have improved the service based on feedback.