Digital services – dealing with your tax and tax credits online

Updated on 1 July 2019

Tax basics

This page gives an overview of some of HMRC’s digital services, how to access them and what support is available to help you use them.

We also look at how you must prove your identity before you can use the majority of HMRC’s digital services.

The information on this page is subject to change as HMRC continually improve and expand what is available online. 

We recommend you also read our guidance on protecting yourself online.

HMRC’s digital services

HMRC offer a range of digital services for those who want to deal with their tax or tax credits online. These services allow you to carry out transactions online such as filing your Self Assessment tax return or, if you are an employer, managing your Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme.

All of HMRC’s digital services are available through GOV.UK, the Government website that brings together guidance and information from the major government departments into one place.

However, before you can use the majority of HMRC’s digital services, you will first need to prove who you are by verifying your identity. At the moment, there are two main ways to do this – through either the Government Gateway or GOV.UK Verify. We explore each of these later in this section.

As well as carrying out transactions, you can also get online help and support from HMRC via their webchat and virtual assistant facilities.

In time, HMRC hope that most people will deal with the majority of their tax affairs online, although they will continue to provide support for those who are unable to do this.

Where can I find HMRC’s digital services?

HMRC’s digital services are all available on GOV.UK:

HMRC online services – a central point or hub where you can access a range of services such as your Personal Tax Account, your business tax account, Self Assessment online, corporation tax, VAT and PAYE for employers. You can find a full list of services you can use with your HMRC online account, as well as sign in, on GOV.UK.

One of the main online services relevant for individuals is the:

Personal Tax Account – which allows you to manage your affairs with HMRC online, similar to an online bank account, but for tax.

Anybody can register for an HMRC online service/create a Personal Tax Account, but before you can use the majority of services you will first need to verify your identity. Some services are also available direct from GOV.UK. We expand on this later.

Because GOV.UK hosts a lot of information, it is not always easy to find what you are looking for. If you want to find out which HMRC services are available online, a good starting point may be to look at the HMRC services and information section of GOV.UK. If the information you are looking for is not there, GOV.UK has a search facility which may help.  

If you use the GOV.UK search facility, try to be as specific as you can. For example, if you know the tax refund form you need is called P87 then you should type this in rather than just ‘tax refund form’. To narrow down the results you can also filter them by government organisation.

You should try to use GOV.UK to search for government information or services rather than use a search engine. This is because results from generic search engines will often bring up unofficial as well as official websites. This can include copycat websites that charge for services that the government offers for free.

Alternatively, you can search GOV.UK using a search engine such as Google by including the term “site:gov.uk” in your search.

How do I access HMRC’s digital services?

Before you can use the majority of HMRC’s digital services, HMRC need to check that you are who you say you are.

To do this, you will have to verify your identity by going through a ‘secure entry portal’ provided by either the Government Gateway, or GOV.UK Verify.  

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What is the Government Gateway?

The Government Gateway is a central place where you can register to use online government services. You can use the User ID and password you receive as part of the sign-up process to access lots of services, including many of HMRC’s digital services.

You can register for an HMRC online service/your Personal Tax Account (and thus, any of the individual services hosted within it) via the Government Gateway.

How do I register for a Government Gateway account?

A Government Gateway account is created when you enrol (or sign-up) for a government online service for the first time. If you have accessed government online services in the past, you may therefore already have a Government Gateway account – if not, then please read on.  
 
Below is a step-by-step guide for signing up for one of HMRC’s most popular online services, the Self Assessment online service:  

  • Go to GOV.UK and click on the ‘Create sign in details’ link. You will need some basic information to hand to enable you to register including your name and an email address.
  • You need to choose the type of account you want to create. This can be an Individual, Organisation, Agent or Pensions account, depending on what you intend to use HMRC online services for. Register as an 'Individual' if you want to use the online service for your personal affairs, for example, to fill in a tax return if you are self-employed. You will need to register as an 'Organisation' if you represent a business or are an employer. If you register as an organisation, your registration only enables you to make transactions on behalf of that organisation.
    When you have selected the type of account you want, and the associated online service(s) you want to use, you will be asked to enter your name and email address and create a password. You will then immediately (on screen) be given your automatically generated Government Gateway User ID. It is important to keep a note or print this as it will not appear again on any of the screens and you will need it for when you next sign in. Please note however that if you sign up for the Self Assessment online service, you will also be sent a reminder of your User ID by post.
    You will then be asked to complete a process called 2-Step Verification. To do this you will have to provide details of either a mobile phone or landline to which an access code will be sent every time you sign in. Having this second layer of security provides added protection should your account details ever be lost or stolen. If you do not have your own mobile phone or landline you can use somebody else’s but you will need to have access to this phone each time you want to use your account.
  • Alternatively, if you have a tablet like an iPad, then you can download an HMRC app and have the access code sent there. If you only have a computer or laptop, we understand from HMRC that it should be possible to use other TOTP (Time-based One Time Password) apps to generate the codes needed – some of which can be installed on a computer/laptop. 
  • Once you have completed 2-Step Verification, you will have to answer some security questions based on information HMRC know about you – you are usually offered a choice between answering questions about your passport or information from your payslips or a recent P60. If you are unable to do this, you may be asked questions based on information provided by a credit reference agency – e.g. about your mortgages, loans, bank accounts, phone contracts, known addresses, etc. If you are not able to answer the questions, or HMRC does not hold enough information to be able to identify you, you need to discuss next steps with HMRC. For help with problems signing in, you could try HMRC online services on 0300 200 3600 or to discuss how you should submit your tax return outside their online system, you should call the Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310.
  • Even when you have created your Government Gateway account and signed up for the online service(s) you want to use, this may not necessarily be the end of the process as many services, including HMRC’s Self Assessment online service, have another level of security. This requires you to ‘activate’ the service before you can use it. An on-screen prompt will tell you if this is the case and an activation code will be sent to you by post.  

What if I already have a Government Gateway User ID and password?

If you already have a Government Gateway User ID and password, this means that you already have a Government Gateway account. You can then simply add the online service(s) you want to use to your account.  

Before you can access them however, a code will be sent to your phone under the 2- Step Verification process outlined above. You may also need to ‘activate’ some services.  

If you have changed phone numbers since you last logged in to your Government Gateway account, you will need to contact the HMRC’s online Services Helpdesk who can deactivate the old phone number so that a new one can be linked to your log in details.

Please note that you will need a separate Government Gateway User ID and password if you want to access services as:

  • an individual (for example so that you can file a tax return) and
  • an organisation (for example to register for PAYE for employers).

You cannot use the same User ID and password to register for services as an individual and an organisation. And cannot add online services designed for ‘organisations’ to an ‘individual’ account and vice versa.

This can be confusing. If for example you are self-employed (run your own business but not as a separate organisation such as a partnership or limited company) but you employ someone, you will still need different registrations – one for your Self Assessment tax return (as an individual) and another to do PAYE for your employees (even though you are in business for yourself and not technically an ‘organisation’). 

What if I lose my Government Gateway User ID or password?

If you lose your Government Gateway User ID or password, then what you need to do will depend on the service you want to use. See the problems logging in section if you are having difficulties trying to access HMRC online services.

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What is GOV.UK Verify?

Some government services are accessible through GOV.UK Verify. This is another way to prove who you are online that is being rolled out across government.

You only need to register for GOV.UK Verify once, to be able to access the government online services which use GOV.UK Verify.

To use GOV.UK Verify you need to choose from a list of third-party providers certified to verify identity. The provider you choose will ask you questions or perform other checks before they confirm your identity to the government department you want to use. The provider you choose does not know which service you are trying to access and the government department does not know which provider you choose.

You can find a full list of services available and providers you can use on GOV.UK.

Irrespective of which provider you use, you will need to give basic information such as your name, address and date of birth. You will then need to provide information that only you know the answer to and that demonstrates you are the person you say you are.

Each provider has different ways of doing this and the options are growing all the time. Things you could be asked about include information from your passport, driving licence, bank account or your financial history/credit record.

In reality, your choice of provider may be limited by the evidence you hold or the evidence a provider is willing to accept. If you do not have any ‘evidence’ at all, you may not be able to use GOV.UK Verify.

Like the Government Gateway, GOV.UK Verify also involves a 2-step verification process to protect you from having your credentials stolen or compromised. At each login your chosen provider will send you a unique code – either by SMS text, to a landline phone or via a mobile application (app). You will need to enter this code before you are allowed to go further.

Here are some tips to help you use GOV.UK Verify:

  • You will need to set up some security questions and create a username and password. Keep these in a safe place for when you next login.
  • You need to have an email address and a phone number. This can be a mobile phone number.
  • You should use the address shown on the electoral roll as your home address.
  • Get your information together before you start to register. Information you may need includes:  
    • Other residents who live at the same address.
    • The length of time you have lived at your current and previous addresses.
    • The date you moved to your current and previous addresses.
    • The postcodes of current and previous addresses.
  • If you use your passport as an identity document, this will need to have at least six months of validity left.
  • If you use your driving licence, only photo card versions will be accepted, not paper licences. You will need the 16-digit licence number.

Having your identity verified is free and will not affect your credit rating in any way.

If you need help using the services offered by any of the providers, their contact details are available on GOV.UK

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What is the difference between the Government Gateway and GOV.UK Verify?

In many ways, there is not much difference between the Government Gateway and GOV.UK Verify. They are both ways to verify your identity before you will be allowed to use the majority of government online services. However, GOV.UK Verify does not store your information centrally and is different to the Government Gateway in that once you have proved who you are, you do not then need to be sent activation codes to access some of the services that you sign up for.

Although more services are joining GOV.UK Verify all the time, for the time being the two systems exist in parallel.

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Do I need to register for both the Government Gateway and GOV.UK Verify?

It will depend on the online service(s) you want to use. Not all services are available through both access routes.

It is worth noting that it is technically possible to register for your Personal Tax Account through both the Government Gateway and GOV.UK Verify, so you could in theory have two sets of access details. No matter which you use however, you will still have to complete the identity verification and 2-Step Verification process described above.   

In reality, not everyone finds GOV.UK Verify accessible due to the specific type of information required.  For these people, the Government Gateway may be the only option, which means that they will not be able to use services that are only accessible through GOV.UK Verify, such as the Trusted Helper facility.

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Which HMRC services are currently available online?

HMRC has a range of services that you can access through the HMRC online services hub/through your Personal Tax Account. Before you can use the majority of services, you will need to verify your identity.

HMRC also have some ‘standalone’ digital services, such as the marriage allowance, which you can access direct from GOV.UK. As you will not necessarily have to go through either the Government Gateway or GOV.UK Verify to access these services, HMRC will check your identity by asking you questions based on information they hold about you.

HMRC also have an interactive mobile application (app) which you can download for your Apple or Android smart phone or tablet. Currently you can use the app to do things like check and manage your tax credits, check your income tax for the current year and track tax forms you have submitted online. You will need a Government Gateway account to log in. You can set one up through the app if you do not already have one.

Below we summarise some of HMRC’s most commonly used digital services and how you can access them.

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Can you tell me more about HMRC online services?

To access HMRC online services you will need a Government Gateway user ID and password as explained in the Government Gateway section.  

You cannot access HMRC online services via GOV.UK Verify, apart from your Personal Tax Account and Self Assessment. 

In addition to the Personal Tax Account, HMRC online services allow you to access a range of online services including:  

  • Self Assessment – Submit your Self Assessment tax return (you must register for Self Assessment first).
  • Construction Industry Scheme – Find out what you must do as a contractor.
  • Notification of Vehicles Arrivals (NOVA) – Notify HMRC if you have brought a vehicle into the UK.
  • PAYE for employers – Access tax codes and information about your employees.
  • Corporate tax/VAT – Submit your Corporate tax/VAT return

Self Assessment is one of HMRC’s most popular online services. To register for this service, you will also need a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), which will then be linked with the Government Gateway account you have created. If you do not already have a UTR you can apply for one on GOV.UK.

Please note that when you sign up for Self Assessment online services through the Government Gateway, you may find yourself directed to your Personal Tax Account, which will have been automatically created for you at the same time.

If you want to get back to the Self Assessment online service, you need to click on the Self Assessment tile within your Personal Tax Account. You will only be able to do this once the service has been ‘activated’.

For more information about the use of HMRC online services, we recommend that you read the terms and conditions.

Activation codes

Some HMRC online services (although not the Personal Tax Account) need to be ‘activated’ before you can use them. Where this is the case, you will be sent an activation code once you have completed your enrolment. It will be sent to the address you gave for the particular service you enrolled for.

It can take up to 10 days to receive the code or up to 21 days if you live abroad. You must activate the service within 28 days of the date shown on the activation code letter. If you do not, the code will expire and you will have to request a new one.

HMRC have published guidance that tells you what to do if you lose your activation code or if it expires.

Because Self Assessment online services require activation, you will not be able to file your Self Assessment tax return immediately after registering for HMRC online services. You should therefore allow sufficient time before the filing deadline to set up and activate your account.

Please note however that there is the option to file your Self Assessment tax return via GOV.UK Verify. You can find out more about this in the What to do if you have problems logging in section. 

What to do if you have problems logging in

If you have problems logging in and enter the wrong User ID or password multiple times, your account will be locked and you will not be able to use HMRC online services for two hours.

During busy times, such as the Self Assessment tax return deadline day, HMRC online services may be unavailable or particularly slow. HMRC have a tool which allows you to see if there are currently any service availability issues.

If you lose your User ID and/or password and cannot get into your HMRC online services account, you may be able to retrieve them. More information on how to do this can be found on GOV.UK.

In order to use this retrieval service you must have already successfully enrolled for one of HMRC’s online services. If you have not done this, for example because you lost your User ID and password before you managed to ‘activate’ a service, then you will have to request a new set of sign in details by creating a new Government Gateway account – you cannot ask for the original ones to be resent.   

Please note that if you file your Self Assessment tax returns online, then because your UTR will have been linked with the original Government Gateway account, you will always need to use the User ID and password you received when you initially enrolled for this service. If you lose them, it is not simply a case of creating another Government Gateway account and signing up for the service again. Instead you will need to ask HMRC to resend them.

You can also use GOV.UK Verify to access Self Assessment online services. This may be particularly useful if you have lost your Government Gateway credentials and already have GOV.UK Verify credentials that you have used for another service.

If you are still having problems, you can contact the HMRC online services Helpdesk who can provide help on the phone or online via an automated assisted and web chat facility. They also have a Frequently Asked Questions page.

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What is my Personal Tax Account?

Personal Tax Accounts enable you to manage your tax affairs with HMRC online in the same way as an online bank account but for taxes. Any individual can create a Personal Tax Account, providing they can successfully verify their identity.

Some of the services and functions currently available in the Personal Tax Account include:  

Check Your Income Tax –This service allows you to check your tax code, personal allowance and income details for the current year and for 4 previous tax years, tell HMRC about any changes that impact tax codes, update employer and pension provider details, see how much tax is due over the current tax year and check/change income estimates on jobs/savings interest. You can also check tax code changes and obtain an explanation as to why a tax code has changed, e.g. for an additional employment.

Tax Calculation Service – This service allows you to check your income tax for the previous year, allowing you to understand if you have underpaid/overpaid or if your tax is balanced.

Repayments – This service allows you to have money owed, repaid into a bank account via BACS transfer.

National Insurance – This service allows you to view, save or print your National Insurance number and to check a record of National Insurance contributions.

Tax Calculator – This service allows you to estimate how much income tax and National Insurance should be paid for the current tax year.

Tax Credits – A service to renew a tax credit claim and tell HMRC about changes to circumstances throughout the year including functionality to check payment information.

Child Benefit – This service allows you to report changes that may affect child benefit. For example, if a child stays in education or training.

Marriage Allowance – This service lets you transfer part of your personal allowance to their husband, wife or civil partner.

Check Your State Pension – This service allows you get an estimate of your projected state pension alongside checking your National Insurance contributions record.

Change of Address – This service allows you to change your address.

Trusted Helper – This service allows a friend or family member to act as a ‘trusted helper’ if you cannot access your Personal Tax Account or the on-line services within.  Trusted helpers have to pass authorisation processes as part of the GOV.UK Verify service.

Claim a tax refund – Including for employment expenses (P87), if you leave the UK (P85) and if you stop working (P50).

Self Assessment – provided you have registered for Self Assessment separately, you should be able to access the online service directly from your Personal Tax Account.  

You can find out more about your Personal Tax Account and the services you can access through it, on GOV.UK.

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What information is there to help me understand my Personal Tax Account?

HMRC have produced a guide that you can see on GOV.UK. The guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to carry out actions in your Personal Tax Account.

It also explains what a Personal Tax Account is and then prompts you to take actions by directing you to certain areas of the guide including:

  • You and your family
  • You and your work
  • Your money and property
  • Your retirement
  • Things HMRC may send you during the tax year; and
  • Other useful things you can do in your Personal Tax Account.

How do I access my Personal Tax Account?

You can access your Personal Tax Account through either the Government Gateway or GOV.UK Verify. You may also find yourself automatically directed to your Personal Tax Account when you use services that are now available as part of the account, for example the tax credits online service or when you sign in to use HMRC’s Self Assessment online services.   

Accessing through the Government Gateway

HMRC have produced a short YouTube video that gives you an overview of the Personal Tax Account. There is also a more detailed webinar that tells first time customers how to sign in to your Personal Tax Account. Alternatively, you can go straight to the Personal Tax Account sign-in page on GOV.UK.

The charity, Tax Help for Older People, have developed a useful guide to setting up your Personal Tax Account, including examples of the screens you will see during the process and simple to follow, step-by-step instructions.

If you already have a Government Gateway account, HMRC have produced another webinar that tells returning customers how to sign in to your Personal Tax Account. You will need to use the User ID and password you got when you set up your Government Gateway account. As part of HMRC’s 2-Step Verification process you may also need to answer a few additional questions based on things HMRC know about you, such as information from a recent P60 or your passport details. Before you are given access to your Personal Tax Account, you will also need to input an access code that HMRC will send to your phone. HMRC will send you a new access code each time you sign in.

If you access your Personal Tax Account by verifying your identity through the Government Gateway, you will be able to use all of the services currently available within your account, apart from the Help friends or family with their tax service (or Trusted helper service) – which is only available to those who verify their identity through GOV.UK Verify.

If you do not have a Government Gateway account, you can register for one as part of the process of signing up for your Personal Tax Account.  

Accessing through GOV.UK Verify

You can also choose to access your Personal Tax Account through GOV.UK Verify, which uses third party providers to check that people are who they say they are. If you verify your identity through this route, you will have access to all services currently available within the Personal Tax Account, including the Help friends or family with their tax service (or Trusted helper service).

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What is Assisted Digital?

Assisted Digital is the term HMRC use to describe the extra help people may need to deal with their tax or tax credits online – perhaps because they have a disability or do not have internet access.

It also aims to help those who do have internet access but who have difficulty using it perhaps because of a lack of confidence or skills or because they may be experiencing IT technical difficulties.    

If you feel you need HMRC’s Assisted Digital help, you can ask for it from any HMRC helpline. The help you can get includes:   

  • Help to get access to a computer and the internet. HMRC may refer you to an organisation or charity that can help you get online.
  • Inputting information on your behalf, or helping you to do this yourself.
  • Arranging a face to face visit if you need one. 

There is also a ‘Get help with this page’ function and access to virtual assistant or online webchat service from within your Personal Tax Account.

You can also contact HMRC’s Online Services Helpdesk who can provide help on the phone or via webchat with:

  • problems logging into or registering for most HMRC systems
  • error messages you receive when using most HMRC systems
  • using HMRC free software and tools
  • problems sending forms online

Trusted helpers

HMRC also have a ‘Trusted helper’ facility that allows you to ask a close friend or family member to help you use your Personal Tax Account. Currently however this service can only be used if both you and the person helping you have verified your identity through GOV.UK Verify.

The service can only be used for help with your Personal Tax Account. It cannot be used to help you with your Self Assessment tax return, for example.

If you decide that you want to change or remove your trusted helper, you can do this by ‘blocking’ the person you no longer want to help you through the ‘Help friends or family’ section of your Personal Tax Account. If you ‘block’ someone it is important to note that you will not be able to use them again to help with your Personal Tax Account. Blocking is permanent.

When using the trusted helper facility, it is important to understand that you are still legally responsible for your own tax and therefore any errors or mistakes made by your trusted helper are deemed to be your own.

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