Check Your Self-Employment Details - Alpha Assessment

The report from the alpha assessment of the HMRC’s Check Your Self-Employment Details service on 21 September 2016.

Stage Alpha
Result Met
Service provider HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

Outcome of service assessment

The assessment panel has concluded the Check Your Self-Employment Details service is on track to meet the Digital Service Standard at this early stage of development.


The Service Manager and the team are developing and governing the Check Your Self-employment Details service using appropriate iterative and incremental techniques. The team is well set up with appropriate roles across research, analysis, design, and development, with sufficient part-time support from content design and technical architecture from within the department.

They have been making good use of the GOV.UK design and content tools and we were pleased to hear the ongoing plans to continue the implementation and use of these. The team is using appropriate, open-source technologies.


  1. The panel strongly recommend that the service is expanded to allow users to register as self employed. This was identified as a significant user need during research, and we feel that to make this service as beneficial as possible, this user need should be addressed.

  2. The panel recommend that the team undertake more research in to the user needs of Agents, the largest user group, and they will interact with other services offered by HMRC. Additionally, we feel it’s important for the service team to have an understanding of the needs that citizens using agents have in this process.

  3. The panel recommends that the team continue researching organisations that provide help and support to assisted digital users, including researching the triage solution being provided in the specialised call centres.

  4. Given the service is currently limited to changes in self employment for Class 2 NI only, we recommend that the team research expanding the service to include the other things users must do when they’ve stopped being self-employed, eg closing PAYE scheme, cancelling VAT registration. The panel would hope that users only need to tell HMRC once that they’re stopping self-employment and this would trigger any necessary actions.

  5. Accessing the service via the Self Assessment form has been regularly tested and the team could provide good examples of how this research fed back into improvements within the design. However, the team is clearly constrained regarding changes to the Self Assessment form. The panel would like to see the team to continue to test and iterate their options for the Self Assessment, continuing to push the limits of what is feasible within these constraints, as we believe further improvements to the user journey could be made. For example, we would like to see research carried out with users who are actually completing the Self Assessment form, to provide evidence that the jump to the service, and the requirement to recalculate once back in the Self Assessment form (if that cannot be negated) are as clear as possible.

  6. The panel also recommend exploring alternatives to focusing on the expected Class 2 NI liability as the most prominent data point both within the service and at the handover point from the Self Assessment form. The panel would like to see concrete assurances that users understand whether they need to take action (so whether they need to use the service at all) based on this liability figure. The team mentioned users trying to manually calculate this by dividing the figure by 2.75, but this shouldn’t be necessary. We recommend that the team explore displaying to users the weeks they were self-employed during the tax year - which is a fact about their situation they could immediately verify as right or wrong.

  7. Accessing the service via Your Tax Account has not been tested. To pass further assessments, the team must be able to provide evidence that they have tested all possible routes through the service, end-to-end, with users. Although the service is the same whether coming from the Self Assessment or from Your Tax Account, users will arrive at the service in vastly different contexts. The Your Tax Account entrance point must be tested so the team have a full understanding of all of their users’ experiences.

  8. As well as accessing this service via the Self Assessment form and via Your Tax Account, the panel would like to see research into making this service directly accessible from wherever users may be accessing information regarding Self Employment. The team should engage with the GOV.UK content team to discuss potential user journeys into the service via deep links from mainstream GOV.UK content.

  9. The panel is satisfied with the technical direction of the service but would like to recommend that the team continues to look at ways to mitigate the risks associated with DES not being ready to use.

  10. The panel recommends that the team should continue to refine the design of the information hierarchy throughout the service. Some of the major calls to actions are currently styled as links, whereas buttons may be more appropriate (e.g. the ’Return to self-assessment’ action appears to be the main next step for most users and might benefit from being highlighted on the page). Likewise, the information about the dates worked on the ‘Update your self-employment details’ page is right near the bottom. The seems to be the key piece of information for the user and may benefit from being moved up in the order of the page.

Digital Service Standard Criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
Published 23 December 2016