Department takes step to support use of third party software in digital tax services
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has made six APIs available for software developers to provide new routes into its digital self-assessment services.
The move, which reflects the priorities of its Making Tax Digital strategy, will make it possible for taxpayers and their agents to access HMRC data through third party software that interacts with its systems through the APIs.
Six have been made available for different types of taxation: individual employments, individual income, individual tax, individual benefits, national insurance and marriage allowance.
They are all ‘user restricted’, requiring that the end user signs in to their Government Gateway account and grants authority for the relevant software to access their data. If the end user is an agent they must have formalised their relationship with the client through HMRC’s 64-8 form.
Security arrangements involve identity checks for agents and a two-step verification process, using a code sent to a mobile phone or landline.
A blogpost by Tony Heap, business analyst in HMRC’s API Platform Team, says the move follows a trial in which agents reported a 16% reduction in the need for contact with their clients and a 19% reduction in the need for contact with the department.
It also acknowledges that problems with the service could need help from the software provider or an HMRC team, but that the department is working on finding a solution; and that the service is subject to iteration and should take in further improvements.
The strategy to encourage the use of third party software in tax services was launched in September 2015, aimed at encouraging the development of a market in digital products and services to make interactions straightforward. It involves making HMRC data business rules available to pre-populate online forms.
By the end of 2017 the department’s API platform had received more than 100 million calls for the exchange of data.
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