ink drop -

HMRC Single Trade Window project hits turbulence

Less than a year into the programme to create a Single Trade Window as a digital gateway for traders, HMRC has already gone through a formal dispute resolution process with its supplier

HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC’s) programme to create a UK Single Trade Window (STW) for importers and exporters has suffered from internal delays and turmoil, Computer Weekly has learned.

In June 2023, supplier Deloitte won the £33m contract to become the department’s technical delivery partner, and together with IBM, it is responsible for building, delivering and maintaining the system.

The contract award notice said the “chosen supplier will need to work flexibly with the STW Programme and its delivery partners across HM Government departments to ensure the service design and delivery of the STW is fit for now and for the future, to enable the range of ambitious border transformations that Government is undertaking”.

However, Computer Weekly has been told that less than a year into the programme, the department ended up in a formal dispute resolution process with the supplier.

Plans for the STW platform were set out in the government’s Border Target Operating Model, aiming to allow users to provide the data they need to trade, as well as being able to apply for licences and authorisations for trusted trader schemes.

The government hopes the system will eliminate duplication and simplify data submissions by allowing traders to submit data once, which can be reused in other declarations.

While the Cabinet Office is leading on the development of the system, it is a cross-government programme, with more than 25 government departments involved, and HMRC, together with its technical delivery partners, Deloitte and IBM, is responsible for the delivery.

Read more about HMRC and technology

  • HMRC digital services have not had the anticipated effect on customer service it hoped for, NAO report reveals, as the auditor says the department needs to develop more realistic plans.
  • Making Tax Digital is meant to overhaul the UK tax system, make it easier for businesses to file tax returns, and reduce error and fraud. How successful has the programme been? Computer Weekly looks at the details of tax digitisation.
  • The 30-year-old Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight system will cease to exist on 4 June 2024, six years after HMRC originally planned to shut it down.

The aim is for the STW to be fully operational by 2027, while the first strategic release is due before October 2024, which will allow users to make entry summary declarations for safety and security.

Computer Weekly understands the programme has struggled due to issues on both the HMRC and supplier side, which has led to the programme incurring extra costs. However, the formal dispute resolution process has now been resolved.

Despite the turmoil, the programme is still on track, according to HMRC. Commenting on the programme, an HMRC spokesperson told Computer Weekly: “There have been some internal delays due to commercial processes and onboarding. These have been resolved and we are on track to meet the Border Target Operating Model commitments of a first public release of Single Trade Window functionality by this October.”

The spokesperson added that this will include “a free-to-use interface allowing users to submit Safety and Security declarations”.

Once the first release of the platform is live, the government will aim to introduce additional functionality, including plans to remove duplication across different pre-arrival datasets and give users the ability to submit customs export declarations.

It will also allow users to apply for valid import and export licences, as well as permits and authorisations for the government to respond via the STW. From 2025 and beyond, the plan is to implement greater functionality, including sanitary and phytosanitary exports and imports of live animals.

Computer Weekly has approached Deloitte with questions about the project, but the supplier declined to comment.

Read more on IT for government and public sector

Data Center
Data Management