HM Revenue & Customs has unleashed a cruel April Fool’s joke on me and potentially millions of other independent citizens. Until now, it operated a system called Gov.uk Verify which allows people to confirm their identity via post or Experian, using a driving license or credit records. This was essential to enable those of us who do not have UK passports to access government services, including self-assessment tax accounts. HMRC is now advising me that from 1st April I can no longer use my Gov.uk Verify account to login to HMRC digital services. Instead, I was told to create a “Government Gateway” account.
To do this, applicants must have two items from a list of acceptable ID – a UK passport, payslip, tax credit or Northern Ireland driving licence. I do not have any. When I called HMRC an officer told me he was in the same situation. I was referred to the self-assessment team who were unaware of the change and advised me to go back to paper tax returns which the agent told me was nonsense because the government is trying to encourage all returns to be filed online.
The demise of the £200million Gov.uk Verify scheme was announced last year, eight years after it was launched. The government promised that users could continue to access it until April 2023 while it works on an alternative digital identity scheme covering all departments. This is precisely what Check was supposed to do, but HMRC decided to set up its own login system and is now abandoning Check a year earlier. Not that you would have known. The Gov.uk Verify website said only the Department for Work and Pensions stopped using it from this month. This was changed after contact with the Observer.
HMRC does not appear to have a contingency plan to help people in your situation. He told me he was looking for ways to make the government gateway more accessible. “There’s a balance to be struck between making things as easy as possible for customers and stopping fraudsters,” said a spokesperson, who advised people in your situation to go back to the 20th century and submit your statement. income on paper.
Extraordinarily, he claimed that only Northern Ireland driving licenses were acceptable ID because the DVLA did not allow HMRC to access UK driver records. Why? Because, according to the DVLA, HMRC only requested access a fortnight ago.