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Charities Registration - Self Certification

Charities need recognition from HMRC to claim gift aid. The digital service allows users to make their applications online with validations in the service filtering out non­-valid applications.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment Stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
R. Morgan

Service Manager:
I. Atkin

Digital Leader:
M. Dearnley

Assessment Report

Outcome of service assessment

Following assessment against the new 18 point service standard, the HMRC assessment panel can confirm that the Charities Registration service has shown clear evidence of meeting the Digital Service Standard and should move to live.


The panel were pleased to see the continued progress of this service during public beta and it is clear that plans are in place for continued development in live.

Particularly notable is evidence that since the start of public beta analytics show that the ’not eligible’ page has been deployed some 660 times. Whilst end users may have gone on to use the service at a later stage it is likely that as many as 660 applications for recognition have been filtered out by the digital service.

To date some 762 completed submissions have been received. These have landed on the Enterprise Tax Management Platform (ETMP) as the transaction number played back to the user on submission is actually the ETMP Form Bundle number. This number is also recorded and a daily update passed to Specialist PT.

At the beta assessment, the panel recommended that the time out message of ‘not authorised’ should be researched further. This has been completed and changed. The message now informs the user that the session has expired for security reasons and redirects to the 'retrieve application' link.


The Panel make the following recommendations­:

  • Investigate the value of putting a suggested completion time on the start page, given the established user need for an in service progress bar.
  • Continue the investigation work begun of assisted digital (AD) users through contact with customers who request a paper form in preference to the digital service; using this insight to further develop the service.
  • Continued monitoring of the 'Save and Retrieve' element of the service to identify any sticking points users may be experiencing. There may be additional benefit in developing an understanding of customers who start but do not return to complete the registration within the 28 day retention period.
  • Supports the continued exploration/development of digital submission of supporting documentation and links to The Charity Commission. The Panel is pleased to see that following public beta, a specialist PT is now also keen to work with the team on this point reducing further unnecessary contact and costs, and improving the user experience.
  • Monitor the feedback of customers who leave ‘Get recognition from HMRC for your Charity’ start page to register for Gateway services to ensure customers continue to successfully negotiate this journey.

The Digital Service Manager (DSM) provided an overview of the service and gave a summary of the progress the service had made throughout its early days and through public beta.

User research has been ongoing since January 2014 and no typical user has been identified; with many different types within the audience for this service – volunteers, charity paid administrators, scout groups etc. Initial research showed that when setting up a charity the customer could communicate with The Charity Commission online but for recognition from HMRC it was a paper process. Users felt that the online experience was far superior and welcomed HMRC’s move to digital.

Listening to the user has been at the core of service development designing such features as 'Save and Retrieve', summaries, ability to edit and return to the leaving point to continue data entries, errors and omissions identified during completion saving user and departmental time and costs, acknowledgements, dynamic listing of supporting documentation required based on details entered, saving unnecessary contact as HMRC receives the right information.

When moving to public beta in January 2015 Specialist Personal Tax (SPT) Operational staff had a 6 week turnaround to deal with applications; this is now down to two weeks as the correct supporting documentation is received and the number of applications being filtered out through upfront eligibility questions.

The panel viewed a demonstration of the service. The demonstration ran well and clearly showed a logical flow for the user journey. Questions asked by the panel were confidently answered by the DSM and all the team members.

The panel were pleased to see that the thorough user research demonstrated at the beta Assessment has continued and that plans are in place for research in live. Personas created have evolved over time.

The team asked users to describe a typical day to understand more about their activities, when and where they do things, and what tools and information they use. There has been difficulty identifying an AD group and TNS have also tried to obtain AD customers for the service.

Lloyds Bank research has been read but there still remains a problem getting to this alleged group. The team believe that there is a need out there but it is covered by someone else within the charity’s organisation dealing with online applications etc. Since moving into public beta, the paper form has been removed from GOV.UK with users being directed to the digital service – there have been only three calls querying this but it has not led to AD requirement. Whilst the form has been removed from GOV.UK it does not mean that a copy has not been saved by a user and could be shared with others. The team will be informed by the business area in the event that a paper form is received the user researcher is then keen to work with that Charity in expanding its AD offering. An AD call line is in place with support, and the team have provided a questionnaire for feedback to ensure that they get the type of information in line with inclusion scales required to aid decision making in this important area. It is clear that the user researcher and team have a good understanding of AD and the researcher attends AD Forums and discussions within the research community.

Whilst registration of details is now digital, the charity official must submit charitable status documents to HMRC. The team are now to look at submission by digital means or to create links to The Charity Commission to negate the need to submit documents. This would also remove the need to have an internal linking process and although the delivery team informed the panel that all documentation is voluntarily sent in, there is a potential need to contact the user for outstanding or missing documentation. During public beta this has been monitored and all but two users had submitted on time. Operational areas are now keen to develop this further having already seen benefits.

The good team dynamic already set up during alpha and beta has continued to develop. The team structure during beta was explained and clearly shows that key roles are being covered by different people. It is the intention that the team will remain the same in live. The Team work closely together and skills are shared through working together and the good communication set up by the DSM.

Agile methodologies continue to be used i.e. daily stand ups to discuss progress/blockers, show & tells, and the sprint cycle – including planning and retrospectives. Business representatives attend the monthly show & tells, the benefits of which have already been highlighted.

The team take part in the various community groups within the Design Centre in Newcastle and London e.g. Researcher, Design etc. There is a good relationship with web ops in London and team members have spent time with web ops learning to code and then shared that knowledge.

The service has been tested on all devices. Whilst the majority of users are completing on a Desktop PC some Tablet submissions have been made – no negative feedback has been received. The paper print & post version of the registration document has been archived from GOV.UK to move users to the digital service. A link to the service is available from the archived form page. Google Analytics has not identified any drop out points but the service team are monitoring the 'Save and Retrieve' functionality; at times there are 300 items saved.

AD strategy is in place using the telephone but the service team are working with the business, Deskpro and helpline to identify further need. A template to collect feedback has been provided to Helpdesk in line with inclusion levels for all direct contact to be analysed. In the dashboard shown to the panel­, cost per transaction is outstanding – the team are working with Finance to get the figure for HMRC as it will involve costs for the Tax Platform.

In addition to the four mandatory key performance indicators (KPIs), the team will measure:

  • Reduction in ineligible applications.
  • Submission of supporting documentation on time.
  • Number of cases passing straight to the operational decision maker without further intervention.

Digital Service Standard criteria

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