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Charities Registration - Self Certification

Charities need recognition from HMRC to claim gift aid. Charities currently do that on a paper form. The digital service will allow customers to make a validated application online. The team are working toward a public beta date in January 2015.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment stage:

Lead Assessor:
R. Morgan

Service Manager:
I. Atkin

Digital Leader:
M. Dearnley

Assessors Summary

Following assessment against the 26 Digital by Default Service Standards the HMRC Assessment Panel can confirm that the Charities Registration service has shown clear evidence of meeting the Digital by Default Service Standards at beta.

The panel were pleased to see how the service had developed since the alpha assessment and are interested to see continued progress along the same lines during public beta.

It was clear that the team had addressed the comments of the panel made at the alpha assessment and made great progress in developing this service.

The panel had two key recommendations:

  • Monitoring of feedback on the standard ‘time out’ message – ‘not authorised’ may confuse users of this service
  • Supporting the exploration/development of digital submission of supporting documentation and links to Charities Commission to reduce additional contact and improve the user experience.

Assessment report

The panel viewed a demonstration of the service. The demonstration ran well and clearly showed a logical flow for the user journey.

User needs

The panel were pleased to hear of the thorough user research conducted so far and the plans made for public beta research.

User research has been undertaken with over 200 charities in 50-60 sessions involving lab testing, surveys and guerrilla testing. At alpha assessment the panel had been concerned about some of the terminology used on the screens; this has been addressed and a card matching exercise proved particularly useful. End-to-end testing has been undertaken to get most benefit for service development. Users have been invited into the Digital Delivery Centre (DDC), been visited at their place of work and even in their homes. At alpha the panel noted that the digital service manager had been challenging the business to understand the concept of building services for user needs. Since then research sessions have been recorded and shared with the business at monthly show and tells and business representatives were invited to user research sessions. This has brought about a change of mindset for the business and there is now greater understanding of the importance of user needs.

A user research plan is in place for the next stage of development including a specific exit survey for this service and continued use of analytics. Increased value will be added as more users have access to the service. The user researcher is investigating the use of Skype to watch users completing their registration in real time.

Following registration of details the charity official must submit charitable status documents to HMRC. The team are now to look at submission by scanning or other digital means or to create links to the Charities Commission to negate the need to submit documents.

Gift Aid has been made mandatory online so the team have linked in to that research also.

A great deal of information has been collected about the users for this service and this has challenged the personas in place.

Accessibility testing has been carried out.

The panel saw strong evidence to support changes being made to the service as a direct consequence of user feedback, for example the three eligibility questions at the start of the service. The feeling was that the user should drop out of the service as soon as their answer to a question made them ineligible for registration – user research has shown that users prefer to work through the three questions and then be told the reason for their ineligibility. In that way they can see the exact cause and know what information they need to collect for eligibility rather than working through one item at a time.

Save and retrieve is now in place for this service. The landing page provides a list of details required to complete the registration and the team will be adding a completion guide time.

The panel would recommend monitoring user feedback on the use of the wording ‘not authorised’ in timeout text. Although this is standard content it could prove confusing given the nature of the service.

The team

The good team dynamic set up during alpha has continued to thrive.

Agile methodologies continue to be used i.e. daily stand ups, show and tells, use of agile tools and the sprint cycle. Business representatives attend the monthly show and tells, the benefits of which have already been highlighted.

Relationship with the business has continued to develop and as mentioned above the user needs mindset being developed by the business is down to the excellent work of both the team and goodwill from the business.

Transfer of skills is taking place within the team and has also improved the overall capability of the DDC. Following alpha assessment, the team had a lot of work to develop the service and further additional capacity was identified in another scrum team. The additional resources were new to the DDC and HMRC. The digital service manager successfully included these resources into his team, sharing knowledge whilst meeting deadlines. At the completion of the work the additional resources returned to their original scrum team and were able to hit the ground running having had the benefit of working with this team. A win-win situation all round, and a credit to the digital service manager and the team ethic developed.

Security, privacy, tools & standards

A Risk Management and Accreditation Documentation Set (RMADS) is in place and passed for beta. The Business Impact Assessment is signed off. Requirements for Secure Delivery of Online Public Services (RSDOPS) is in place and updated in readiness for Change Framework Gates. The service team is engaged with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and data guardians. Information Management Service Project and Digital Fraud Group has had sight of the service.

Standard DDC-Newcastle tools such as Google Analytics and Splunk will be used to monitor and measure the service. Current estimates suggest that 300 digital registrations will be received weekly. The team are confident of the service's capacity to meet user demand in public beta. Performance testing has proved this. In addition concurrency testing has been undertaken successfully with 200 concurrent users. The service sits on the tax platform, and uses the platform's established disaster recovery procedures. Users are notified of service downtime ahead of scheduled maintenance. In the event of any incidents with the service, the team will obtain details/feedback from Deskpro.

The service is using standard DDC-Newcastle tools e.g. Splunk, and has transaction monitoring in place. A local environment is used for testing. No security concerns were identified with the service's existing kit.

The service is supported on all devices, and there has already been a submission by phone.

Open source code will be published on GitHub in the very near future.

The service complies with HMRC Cookie Policy.

Improving the service

The process for deployment was explained, along with the changes and testing of new iterations. No down time is required to make changes. ASPIRE reports show that submissions are delivered to the back end systems/lists correctly. Deployment of changes to the front end service can be made quickly. It is envisaged that in the future with enhancements to the existing process that the digital service manager will have authority to deploy.

Plans are in place to develop the service through user research and analysis (Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)).


End-to-end testing has been undertaken. Drop out points have been identified and actioned.

Non-digital steps are the submission to HMRC of legal and supporting/supplementary documentation, and the manual review of the documents on receipt. The panel where please to learn that the digital service manager is working with the business and operational area to review all these aspects and look at digital solutions.

The team are monitoring the effectiveness of free text boxes remaining on the service, with a view to replacing them with, for example, radio buttons.

Screens have been created in accordance with the GDS style guide; this was also evidenced during the demonstration.

Assisted digital & channel shift

It is clear that there is a good understanding of assisted digital (AD) across the team. Whilst it had been a challenge to identify an AD user to date, the team are working with key AD stakeholders and have developed a strategy and plan to take this forward.

The service team has been engaged with the strategy team and the dedicated charities support unity.

A plan to increase digital take-up is in place.

Analysis & Benchmarking

Analytical tools have been identified; Google Analytics and Splunk.

In addition to the four core KPIs, the team will be measuring:

  • Reduction in ineligible applications (working with Specialist PT for a baseline figure)
  • Time to completion
  • Customers using the 'save for later' function
  • Submission of paperwork on time
  • Reduced number of calls
  • Where any paperwork is missing – what is it and why – (to reduce follow up telephone calls)
  • Cases passing straight through to operational decision makers

End-to-end service testing

The digital leader, Mark Dearnley, has been invited to test the service.

Digital by Default 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
19 Yes 20 Yes
21 N/A 22 N/A
23 N/A 24 N/A
25 Yes 26 N/A
Details of criteria that are not applicable to this service
21, 22, 23, 24, 26– not applicable to service with fewer than 100k transactions p.a.