February 2, 2016

How long does it take for an issue to fall from “current affairs” into “history” or to be forgotten altogether?

I ask because I had an odd experience while completing my tax return on Sunday afternoon (well of course I left it to the last minute – I’m a retired tax inspector, after all, and you know what they say about the dentist’s children’s teeth).

Because I had checked (and written a smug blog entry about it) that I was able to log onto the HMRC system in good time this year.  But when I sat down on Sunday morning and typed “HMRC self assessment” into google I didn’t get back to the expected page with my details already saved.  Instead I found myself in gov.uk at a page headed “sign in and file your self assessment tax return” which had a link to “sign into your online account“… which did NOT have my login details already filled in as I had hoped.

Now I had, of course, taken the precaution of writing down my “HMRC User ID” (and my UTR) inside the front cover of my account book.  But I had not written down my password and it seemed my computer had not helpfully retained it in its memory and it was now 11am on 31st January and ouch!  And, incidentally, if you need a new password (which was my first thought) you can only get one if you agree to have an “online Government account email address” which I have so far refused to accept.  This is because I suspect that signing into a government email address will be as much a bore and a chore as signing into one’s self assessment account, and I utterly refuse to have legal notices like notices to file and reminders to file sent to an address which it is unlikely I will remember to log into.  To me, a reminder goes to, you know, the thing you actually look at like your ACTUAL email address.

But this is beside the point, which was that time was getting on and I still hadn’t managed to log into my self assessment account and it didn’t look as if I was going to be getting a new password any time soon enough to make a difference.  Aha!  I thought, I can follow one of the other links on the “sign in and file  your self assessment” page which helpfully offers the option of signing in with “a GOV.UK Verify account”

I don’t know what that is, I thought, but it sounds like something I should have.

So I went to this page and clicked on “this is my first time using Verify” and arrived… here.

Now, if you haven’t clicked on any links so far in this blog, I suggest you click on this one, because it tells you that

A certified company will verify your identity. They’ve all met security standards set by government.

A “certified company”.  Not HMRC.  Not any arm of the government.  A “certified company”.  They are:

  • Verizon
  • Experian
  • Digidentity
  • Post Office

I failed to register with the Post Office, and then I failed to register with Experian, mainly because I had already given them a remarkable number of details from my drivers licence and my debit card and they then wanted my passport details as well which I refused to give them.

I realise that 2006 is a long time ago, but do we recall the protests against the introduction of a national identity card scheme?  I seem to recall that the one of the principal objections was that it would enable government to join up different databases and put together an enormous mass of data about our individual movements and activities.  There was a campaigning group, NO2ID, which still seems to be operational.

I was never quite sure which side of the argument I was on.  I used to be a tax inspector, after all, so I could see just how bloody useful being able to join up government databases would be.

But to me, if there’s one thing worse than having a government identity card scheme, it’s having a privatised one.  Great flying spaghetti monster, I’d rather have a democratically elected government tracking me than… an American mobile phone company, a credit reference agency, a private Dutch company or the bloody Post Office!

(After lunch I tried again.  I googled “HMRC login”, which took me straight to this page, where my HMRC User ID and the password were already helpfully in place.  Phew!  And, yes, I’ve done my tax return, on time, thanks.  Inner peace my eye!)

So.  What do we think about Verify accounts?

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