Friday 12 June 2015

RIP IDA – tax credits: another nail in the digital-by-default coffin

No need to say it, it goes without saying, it should be obvious to all but,
just in case it isn't obvious to all,
IDA is dead.

IDA, now known as "GOV.UK Verify (RIP)",
is the Cabinet Office Identity Assurance programme.
And it's dead.

"If there's a tricky job facing the Government Digital Service (GDS), or indeed an impossible job", we were saying on 19 April 2015 and 20 April 2015, "what do they do? Call for Janet Hughes".

GDS have had to call for her again, please see Basic identity accounts trial.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have been lured into using GOV.UK Verify (RIP) to make sure they know who they're dealing with on-line. The problem is that GOV.UK Verify (RIP) doesn't work.

Ms Hughes takes as her example HMRC's on-line Tax credit renewals service. Who is that on the other end of the line? HMRC need to know. They can't hand out money to just anyone. "... even when the service is live, there will be some people whose identity it’s not possible to verify entirely digitally", Ms Hughes tells us, "for example, it will always be difficult to verify the identity of someone who has no evidence (like a passport, driving licence, bank account) that it’s really them and not someone pretending to be them".

That's the problem.

And the proposed solution?

"Last week we started to trial  a new part of GOV.UK Verify (RIP). Working with HMRC on the Tax Credits service, we've introduced basic identity accounts (also known as LOA1) alongside our existing verified identity accounts (also known as LOA2)".

How do basic identity accounts solve the problem?

They don't:

"As part of the trial of basic identity accounts, people who can’t fully verify their identity account can now set up a basic identity account. HMRC will then ask some additional security questions and give them access to the Tax Credits service. This is sufficient to allow someone to do relatively low-risk things online, like confirm existing details are correct, or save and return later to a form".

Basic identity accounts don't allow claimants to renew their tax credits. They may well be "a new part of GOV.UK Verify (RIP)" but they don't allow HMRC to verify your identity. They may help you to return to a partially completed form but they won't let you renew your tax credits.

Any claimant who can't get a full, non-basic identity account can renew their tax credits claim but only thanks to HMRC asking "some additional security questions".

Tax credits isn't the only on-line service in which GOV.UK Verify (RIP) poses problems for HMRC. The Daily Mail newspaper led the other day with an exposé of HMRC's Transferable tax allowance service, please see Thousands miss out in marriage tax fiasco, "HMRC's problem centres on a £25million computer system called Verify".

Poor old HMRC. They've plighted their troth to the wrong liege. They now have to route round GOV.UK Verify (RIP). They have to do without it. They don't need it. It's not up to the job. They need something that works.

Who else could explain that GOV.UK Verify (RIP) is dead while simultaneously claiming that events are all going according to plan? No-one. Only Janet Hughes.

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