GOV.UK Verify: The underused life-saver for freelancers filing late tax returns
With less than a month to go before HMRC?s 31 January self-assessment deadline, a beta service allowing users to verify their identity could save contractors and freelancers time and money by reducing the need to phone the tax office or wait for paper documents. The GOV.UK Verify service ? which was first trialled in January 2015 ? allows users who have lost their login details for HMRC online services to access the self-assessment portal by verifying their identity using the secure platforms of partners including the Post Office and credit reference company Experian. Some 11,000 sole traders used the service during its initial pilot ? and the enthusiastic take-up meant it was extended indefinitely. HMRC has predicted that up to 500,000 people will have used Verify to log in to their self-assessment by April 2016. First-time users can expect the identity verification process to take ten minutes, and should have their passport and UK driving licence to hand. Security questions that need to be answered correctly in order for users to verify themselves include queries about overdrafts, credit cards and when bank accounts were opened. Though the questions are probing, the service dramatically cuts down on the time-scales involved prior to the introduction of the service. Figures released in September 2015 revealed that over one third of calls were cut off by the tax man when wait times became so long that there was no chance of them being answered ? while those who did get through to HMRC to ask for replacement login details faced a ten-day wait for them to arrive in the post. Following the success of Verify in helping self-employed people pay tax, a planned extension in 2016 will allow individuals to declare bankruptcy or dissolve a registered company using the service for verification.
Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics ? as well as running a tutoring company.
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