Using government websites and helplines – keep a record

Published on 25 February 2013

In October 2012, the Government launched a new website, Gov.UK, which replaced Directgov and Business Link and is now the main site for anyone wanting information about Government services and departments. However, the site is still being developed and taxpayers and tax credits claimants should follow a few simple rules when using the site to avoid future problems.

Prior to October 2012, most information from HMRC about tax and tax credits could be found on Directgov and Business Link as well as HMRC’s own website (www.hmrc.gov.uk).

On 17 October 2012, Directgov and Business Link were replaced by Gov.UK which is intended to bring all of the Government’s services and information together in one place. Gov.UK is managed by the Government Digital Service which is part of the Cabinet Office. Eventually, most information the HMRC website will be transferred to Gov.UK.

Although we welcome attempts to simplify information, the tax and tax credits systems are extremely complex and LITRG has some concerns that information on the Gov.uk website has been over-simplified in attempting to make it accessible to all. This could mean it is misleading to users and we therefore strongly recommend that anyone relying on its content keep records.

What you need to do

Keep a copy of web pages

When using any Government website to find out information that you may rely on when making claims or filling in forms, we recommend that you keep a record of it:

  • Print a copy of the page (ensuring it shows the date it was printed) and keep it somewhere safe.
  • If you do not have access to a printer, most computers allow you to take a screen shot of a page and save it on your computer.

That way, you can refer back to it should there be any problem with your tax and tax credits in the future.

Keep a note of telephone calls

Similarly, when contacting any of the Government helplines listed on Gov.UK, it is a good idea to make a note of:

  • The date and time of the phone call,
  • The name of the adviser you spoke to, and
  • Brief notes about the advice given.

You should keep this note in a safe place. This is particularly important if you are reporting a change of circumstances. You can then follow up your phone call by sending a letter and obtaining some proof of postage.

Although this may seem time consuming, we frequently see cases where claimants have made phone calls or followed incomplete guidance which has led to a tax underpayment or tax credits overpayment. It can be very difficult to deal with these problems without any evidence at a later date. These small steps now can save a great deal of time, worry and stress in the future.

Future of Gov.UK

When finished, Gov.UK will be divided into three main parts.

  • General content which is aimed at the general public who require basic information;
  • Detailed guidance for those who have a need for more information or specialised understanding of a particular area; and
  • Inside Government content which will include policy information from each Government department in one place.

So far, most information published on Gov.UK has been general content which has been rewritten from its original form on Directgov and Business Link. You can find out more about the plans for Gov.UK on the Gov.UK website (https://www.gov.uk/support/about-govuk)

(25-02-13)

Contact: Robin Williamson (please use form at http://www.litrg.org.uk/ContactUs)