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Payrolling Benefits In Kind - Beta Assessment

The Payrolling Benefits In Kind service allows employers to report to HM Revenue & Customs details of employees' benefits, expenses and tax deducted on these items through payroll.

Department / Agency:
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

Date of Assessment:
17 September 2015

Assessment Stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
T. Scott

Service Manager:
A. Davies

Digital Leader:
M. Dearnley

Assessment Report


The Payrolling Benefits In Kind service has shown sufficient progress and evidence of meeting the Digital Service Standard criteria and should proceed to launch as a Beta service on the domain.


User Needs

The core user need to allow payroll managers to quickly register their organisation is at the centre of the team’s work.

The approach to user testing has changed as the team have adjusted the length of their sprints; testing is in every sprint now. There has been a mix of lab and on-site testing and there is usability testing for each iteration. The focus in user testing has been tasked-based with payroll staff for medium and large organisations (those with more than 100 employees). Offline research was completed with smaller organisations and there was a high level of digital confidence and access from those groups.

Feedback from users highlights the ease of use and ability to update an entire organisation with such a short service and that exemptions can be made easily.

There are two ways for users to access the service, through GOV.UK directly and from Your Tax Account. There is no research into how this service fits with the Your Tax Account or other services payroll staff use.

The panel was pleased that usability feedback has helped to improve the design of the service, including putting the most common items at the top of lists of benefits and ensuring exemptions are simple and secure to complete. The public beta will allow the team to look at usage with analytics on a larger scale and adjust designs where groups of users are falling out of the service.

The team will continue to research potential needs for assisted digital support for the service.

The Team

The team structure is a good mixture of governance and delivery. Most roles are exclusive to the Payrolling Benefits In Kind service but some are shared with a small number of other services. Where roles were missing in the past, for example a user experience designer, they are now part of the service and contributing to its success. Despite the changes across the team, not least the service manager, the team have remained focused on the service and filling the gaps in support.

The most recent addition to the team has been a performance analyst who is helping to set up user journeys and funnels so that real world usage can feed back into the development of the service in the public beta. As with other HMRC services, WebOps time is shared, which can limit deployment of changes as the team do not have end to end control. However, in a system as complicated as this it is not unusual to have many dependencies and the team understand them and work towards the deployment window each sprint.

The panel was encouraged to hear that user research is at the centre of development, with the whole team taking time to observe feedback. This has lead to improved designs and a better shared understanding of the needs. Knowledge is shared through a wiki. The team initially wrote bigger stories for the three week sprints but found that velocity of delivery increased by writing more granular stories over a two week sprint period.


The service team aim to release every sprint. The process is complicated by the infrastructure of the tax platform, meaning that getting code into production can take 48 hours in the normal process, although bug fixes can be completed faster. The team have access to monitoring and logs of the service to improve code and track bugs. There is a reliance on the central WebOps team for out of hours response, however the user research has shown the service will be used mainly during normal business hours. The DSM is the first to be called should the service go down and decides on any response.

Front end designs are sketched quickly and a local development prototype can be created for user research and testing. The service takes advantage of the shared features of the tax platform, using Government Gateway for authentication of users. The front end of the service is quite simple with a RESTful interface, there is no requirement for extended interaction functionality.

The service has been through security and risk assessments and the Senior Information Risk Officer is satisfied the service is safe.

Businesses must register before the start of the financial year to payroll for the following year. Any downtime right at the end of the financial year could prevent businesses from registering in time for the new financial year. Although this is an unlikely scenario, a plan is in place to allow businesses a short window at the very start of the new financial year to register for the service.

The service intend to share the non-configuration code running one aspect of the service on GitHub soon, being one of the first teams to do this at HMRC. The code will be useful to teams in HMRC and also other government services. The team are using tools to check multiple browser compatibility and have access to a library of devices to check how the service works in the real world.

Design and Take-up

The service design is consistent with the look and feel of GOV.UK. Using a national insurance number with the ‘exceptions search’ functionality requires details to match exactly. For other data, fuzzy matching functionality has been implemented to help users. Content terms such as ‘works number’ have been tested with users.

The team plan to use analytics to monitor usability and completion. The team have a plan for advising the largest businesses using this service but also to promote adoption of the service with a wider business community.

The team are carrying out accessibility testing and use software to check accessibility as the service is developed.

The service is only available digitally and support is embedded in the service, which will be tested in public beta. Users of the online iForms P11D service are being directed to this service and the team has a budget and plan for comms which will support their digital take-up.

‘Payrolling Benefits in Kind’ isn't consistent with language on GOV.UK but the team’s research has revealed that 'payrolling' is an industry term that resonates strongly with payroll/finance managers. An alternative title might be ‘Register to pay employee benefits through your payroll’. Though longer, it’s more consistent, active, and descriptive of the service itself. Users aren’t doing any payrolling with the service - they’re registering their payrolling ‘preferences’ with HMRC.

The team will need to continue to work with GDS to ensure the start page is concise and relevant to what the service can do. The language used in the service should be consistent with GOV.UK. Detailed guidance says employers can ‘pay expenses and benefits through your payroll’ rather than ‘payroll expenses and benefits’. Using ‘payroll’ as a verb is confusing.

Analytics and Performance

The service has analytics embedded throughout, monitoring and measuring users. There are two journeys into the service, directly from GOV.UK or from the Your Tax Account portal. Analytics will be prioritised for feedback once the service moves into public beta.

Some effort has been made to set up the four KPIs for this service. More work is happening on the cost per transaction and digital take-up measures, because of the nature of the service the cost for completion could be as little as £0.10 for the employer but this could represent any number of employees, reducing the cost per transaction as a comparison considerably. The service will be using the GOV.UK done page which will measure user satisfaction.

Work has started to publish data on the Performance platform.


During the public beta phase the service team should:

  • Continue testing the service with users, focusing attention on SMEs and micro-companies. Although they are likely to represent the smallest volume of annual returns they will likely represent the broadest scale of capability and understanding, success with this group will translate to success with all users.
  • Ensure they are testing and researching in the context of tax, payroll and PAYE, and Your Tax Account. This service doesn’t exist in isolation yet there is little evidence of research into how the service fits within the wider context.
  • Establish whether there is a need for assisted digital support and, if required, develop and test the provision during the public beta.
  • Check there is consistent use of language between GOV.UK and the service such as ‘works number’.
  • Continue to work with third-party software developers to enable the ‘preferences’ to be set in payroll software.
  • Complete accessibility testing.
  • Develop the plan for phasing out alternative channels.
  • Set better measures for success.
  • Review the release process, in particular the 48h turnaround and dependency on resources external to the team - at live assessment you will need to demonstrate that this has not impeded your ability to iterate at pace.

Digital by Default Service Standard Criteria

Criteria Result Criteria Result
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 6 Pass
7 Pass 8 Pass
9 Pass 10 Pass
11 Pass 12 Pass
13 Pass 14 Pass
15 Pass 16 Pass
17 Pass 18 Pass