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Employment Related Securities (ERS) Reporting Service - Self Certification

Under Employment Related Securities (ERS) legislation changes that come into effect from April 2015, companies running share and security schemes must send their end-of-year returns online.

This ERS Returns Service is a digital service that allows those employers or their agents to provide HMRC with end-of-year ERS returns for schemes and arrangements operated (Company Share Option Plan (CSOP), Share Incentive Plan (SIP), Save As You Earn (SAYE), Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI), and ‘Other’).

The returns are in spreadsheet format based on an ODS template that is available to download from the HMRC portal for each scheme. Employers and Agents compile required data throughout the year using the spreadsheet. CSV files are now accepted based on the outcome of customer research.

Between 6 April 2015 and 7 July 2015, there is a three month window allowing users to submit their end of year returns. The service can still be used beyond July, however, if users submit their return outside of this window they will receive a late penalty.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
R. Morgan

Service Manager:
I. Atkin

Digital Leader:
M. Potter

Assessment Report

After consideration the assessment panel concludes that the ERS Reporting service has shown sufficient progress and evidence of meeting the Digital by Default Service Standard criteria and should proceed to launch as a beta service on a domain in April 2015. The demonstration showed that the service is simple, quick and easy to use.

User needs

Clear use of research establishing the user need was demonstrated through the introduction of .csv file uploads. HMRC provide an ODS template for customers but research found that most users used Excel spreadsheets and preferred .csv. Research showed that users downloaded the ODS template to view it but didn’t in fact use it. Both options to upload files are provided in the service.

Twenty one user research sessions had been held covering focus groups, guerrilla, lab testing, lab and video. Skype has been used successfully to record user testing sessions. The team can readily see user reaction to content/design and flow of the service and all observe together. At the same time this has given the opportunity to share user research sessions with the business.

A really good user network has been established giving confidence that the service will meet the needs of the customer.

The team

The service manager talked through the team working on the service. It is clear that the entire team work well together and have a good team ethic. Working closely with Delivery Centre Management, any resource changes can be anticipated and handovers through shadowing are put in place to give continuity. The DSM has also used Pair Programming and the team come together as a group to problem solve and share knowledge and experience. In addition to this Delivery Centre Management have created Communities for designers, architects, DSMs etc. to come together and share wider knowledge across projects and the team make full use of this facility. This also provides a link to our other Deliver Centre in London.

A good working relationship with Specialist PT line of business is in place and has been developed through fortnightly Show and Tells and weekly meetings/updates and workshops. The usual agile methodologies and techniques are being used and the service manager has suitable input and prioritisation over the backlog.

Security, privacy, tools & standards

The DSM confirmed that all relevant security credentials have been signed off. Examples of the tools being used were given – Jenkins, Git, Jira; all industry standard and in common use for agile delivery. Open source code is used but as recommended above, the panel want to see new open source code published at the earliest opportunity. Users will be using the Government Gateway until identity assurance for organisations is delivered. Deployment and testing routine was explained – down time is not required and testing is undertaken as iterations are delivered. The service has been tested on a variety of browsers including IE6 upwards, Safari, Linux and Windows 8. Mobile devices have been tested. Although the audience for this service will be office based as a nil return is also mandatory it has been tested on other devices. Disaster Recovery is in place.

Improving the service

The team can respond to issues/bugs and iterate quickly. The team respond quickly to user research and ensure that they are aware of trends from feedback and Deskpro. The service manager has no preconceived ideas of how the service will be used during beta and is looking forward to observing user behaviour in real time. A user survey carried out in June 2014 will provide a benchmark to measure user experience of the service.


This service has no non-digital steps as online return submission is mandatory and there will be no paper alternative. Data will populate backend systems and be stored in readiness for compliance activity. Accessibility of the service has been tested/reviewed by the HMRC Accessibility Champion.

The GDS style guide/Design patterns have been used throughout with the exception of the file upload, as the guide does not contain anything for this situation. Although the format used is widely available it has not been formally agreed with GDS and the panel would like to see evidence that the style used is acceptable. The team did refer to GDS for advice on the use of a pdf Error Report which users preferred to the HTML versions. Users preferred the pdf as the individual submitting the return is not normally the person who would correct the spreadsheet data – the pdf Error Report can be easily passed on. Agreement has been reached with GDS to use pdf as first option with HTML versions also being made available. This will suit all user needs.

Assisted digital & channel shift

To date there is no evidence of assisted digital need. However a support model is in place and need will be monitored via the Helpdesk. Whilst there is no paper alternative for this service Helpdesk staff are briefed to either talk callers through the process or complete on their behalf. A relationship exists between the line of business and ERS employers this will be exploited/expanded to meet any AD needs which may arise.

The benefits/use of the service have been published in bulletins. The Service Manager and team members have spoken at SPT events and a variety of forums to deliver the message around this service. There will also be a Ministerial launch of the service in March 2015.

Analysis & benchmarking

The service team has made a good start by getting analytics installed, and has some good ideas for future analytics have been put forward. Google Analytics will be used to measure the four core Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

For the year 2013/14 22,000 ERS returns were received, half of those by the deadline – having said that the deadline was across a weekend and many users submitted their returns on the first working day of the week. Submissions are expected to be higher in 2014/15 as nil returns have been mandated. The stats used to benchmark submissions for 2014/15 have been collated from the line of business and KAI. The stats profile has not been returned to KAI to ensure robust figures are being used and the panel asked that this is done at the earliest opportunity.

Service testing end-to-end

The HMRC Digital Leader has been invited to test the service before Live and the Team are awaiting his response to arrange the appointment.

Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 N/A
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 Yes