Stuart Monk - Fotolia

HMRC rejects Verify

HM Revenue and Customs says it won’t be using Verify, which could cause difficulties for the government’s target of having 25 million Verify users by 2020

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has decided against the idea of using the Government Digital Service (GDS) developed Verify identity assurance platform and will instead only use its own identity service.

Rumours have long been rife that HMRC was reluctant to adopt Verify, with sources suggesting the department had no confidence in the system.

In fact, the department has been investing in its own identity verification service, based on the 15-year-old existing Government Gateway, which is used for individuals and businesses to submit their tax returns. 

In a blog post, Mike Howes-Roberts, HMRC programme director for transforming Government Gateway, said when the current Gateway service ends in March 2018, it will be replaced by the departments own system.  

“HMRC is developing its own identity system for individuals, businesses and agents,” he said. “Other departments will use Verify for all individual citizen services.”

Update: Since the publication of this article, HMRC has edited its blog post and removed the above statement. Computer Weekly has asked HMRC why it decided to remove it. 

Screenshot of original blog
Screenshot of original blogpost above

An HMRC spokesperson said the blog had later been updated as it was "causing some confusion", and told Computer Weekly in a statement that the department "is committed to Verify as the single identification service for individuals and is fully focused on delivering this".

"The authentication service that HMRC is developing to replace the Government Gateway will complement the existing Verify service for business representatives," the spokesperson said. 

Howes-Roberts also said in his blog that HMRC is “exploring options around other government departments” using the Government Gateway replacement service.

“This would be restricted to business and agent-facing services only as Cabinet Office requires all other departments to use Verify: the cross-government service for any citizen-facing services where customers need to prove their identity,” he said.

Read more about Verify

In an interview with Computer Weekly in 2016, GDS chief Kevin Cunnington said the reason HMRC had been reluctant to fully adopt Verify was because the department requires a lower level of assurance than Verify currently offers.

Verify is designed only for individual citizen identity, while HMRC also requires a business verification system to replace the Government Gateway system.

The two departments have been in talks “for a while” about how to merge the services further down the line, but HMRC now seems to have decided to go it alone.

Success of Verify’s user target in question

The rejection of Verify by one of the largest government departments is likely to cause issues for the government’s goal, set out in its recent transformation strategy, of getting 25 million users of the service by 2020.  

To reach its ambitious target, government would require large departments with high-volume services to get on board with Verify – HMRC’s digital tax services being one of them.  

The identity assurance platform, which went live in May 2016, works by asking users to set up an account with one of a selection of third-party identity providers, such as the Post Office, Experian or Verizon.

Each company then asks the user to prove who they are, using available data such as their credit history or by allowing electronic access to documents such as passports. 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also been reluctant to adopt Verify, but is now using the system for its new, digital Universal Credit system.

The government is also running a series of pilots with local councils, trialling two local public services – applications for older people’s concessionary travel passes and residents’ parking permits.

GDS is also trying to persuade banks and online gambling firms to consider Verify as a means to identify users

Computer Weekly has approached GDS, Cabinet Office and HMRC for comment. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... ... ... .... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

Read more on IT for government and public sector

Data Center
Data Management