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HMRC shuns Notify and seeks supplier to unify notifications

Tax collection agency HMRC will spend up to £9.75m to streamline notifications through text, voice and email

HM Revenue and Customers (HMRC) is looking for a third-party supplier to unify text, voice and email notifications, rather than using the government’s own Notify service.

The department is looking to spend up to £9.75m on a contract with a single supplier that will take on and evolve its notifications set-up, which currently involves 94 million SMS messages, eight million voice calls and 220 million emails issued every year.

The existing multi-factor authentication, email and SMS campaigns and multi-device messaging set up is supported by multiple companies.

According to HMRC, the new combined email and text service will be a part of a range of communication services to support a strategy to “communicate with the right customer at the right time through the right channel”.

When questioned by Computer Weekly as to whether the Notify had been considered prior to the publication of the tendering process, and the reasons why it decided to buy another solution, HMRC said the in-house system created by the Government Digital Service (GDS) was unsuitable.

“HMRC did consider the Notify Service for this procurement, but determined that it would not meet our current and future needs,” a spokesperson at the department said. Notify is a standardised system developed by GDS and has been one of its most successful tools, with nearly 3,500 digital services across central and local government and the NHS using the platform to send nearly two billion messages, including texts, emails and letters.

The HMRC contract is expected to be for a two-year period worth around £6.5m, with the option of an additional year. The total estimated value of £9.75m refers to a three-year contract.

The first phase will see the transition of the services to a single platform. In a subsequent stage, the goal will be to “develop new and innovative ways of communicating” with citizens through standard interfaces where necessary with HMRC’s other communication platforms.

A similar notice, with a maximum value of £9.5m, was published by the tax collection agency in December 2019, which has not been awarded.

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