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Working with tax publishers

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: API, Content, HMRC Manuals, Taxonomy, User research

Several UK tax publishers have been in touch with us to learn more about how the transition of HMRC to GOV.UK will affect them. There are many publishers who use and build upon content published by HMRC to create products relied upon by accountants, lawyers and tax advisers.

Publishers workshop

We would like to invite all tax publishers to attend a briefing on GOV.UK. There will be an opportunity for questions on the day and if there is a need we can arrange follow up meetings on a later date.  The workshop will be held on Monday 9 December from 1.30pm to 3.30pm at Aviation House. If you would like to attend, please contact the HMRC transition team.

We will cover the background to GOV.UK, the work we are doing on transition and our approach to building an API for content on GOV.UK.

We will also discuss some of our initial thoughts for developing the APIs for content on GOV.UK (including the HMRC manuals) and start to understand what your user needs will be for accessing this content through an API.

You may want to bring along a software developer from your organisation as this session will be the start of a much larger piece of work for developing the GOV.UK API during 2014.

GOV.UK going wholesale

In her 2010 report that helped create GOV.UK, Martha Lane-Fox emphasised the need to open up government transactions and content so that they can be delivered easily by commercial organisations and charities. She wrote that GOV.UK should be:

a wholesaler, as well as the retail shop front for government services & content, by mandating the development and opening-up of Application Programme Interfaces (APls) to third parties.

James Stewart, Technical Architect for GOV.UK has previously written about the existing GOV.UK's APIs and how we use them to build and monitor the site. James also blogged about what those APIs mean for other developers who might want to use GOV.UK content and data.

HMRC ahead of the game

HMRC is ahead of the game in creating a wholesale model for delivery of government services online. They were an early adopter of the use of APIs and have many case studies. APIs mean that  3rd party software developers can create their own applications that can talk to HMRC’s systems.  There is now an active market with hundreds of third party software products to help calculate and file tax returns online and software developers are already engaged with HMRC in shaping the future.

An API for tax and HMRC content

What we haven't had so far is an API for tax content. Legal publishers have often relied on manual (or semi-automatic) scraping of content from the HMRC website into their systems. The GOV.UK API should help to make all content on GOV.UK directly accessible to anyone who wishes to reuse it, including legal and tax publishers.

We are also building a taxonomy for tagging the tax content on GOV.UK which will also be accessible through the API so that third party systems can query particular parts of the tax content.

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  1. Comment by Chris Moore posted on

    Would an option be for Manuals to be available in ePub format, so such apps as Kindle, or Apple's iBooks could download and store such material on their virtual book shelf?

  2. Comment by Stephen Edwards posted on

    Thanks for the comment.

    GOV.UK content and services on the site must work seamlessly on a wide range of devices and browsers. There is overwhelming evidence of the user need, see most recently:
    This approach would also be the same for any highly specialist content such as the HMRC manuals. It isn't unusual to see tax advisers consulting the yellow books, or barristers accessing the CPR, on their iPad.

    The ePub format would be one solution to give access to content in an offline format for use on mobile devices. Is there a user need for content, such as the manuals, to be available offline on devices like the kindle?

    • Replies to Stephen Edwards>

      Comment by Lissa Allcock posted on

      I think the only need for these materials on the Kindle might arise due to practitioners having Kindles but not tablet computers for whatever reason. I have a Partner who expressed a wish for the Yellow books on Kindle but my feeling is that it's not the right platform for this kind of extensive data. I may be biased by lacking a Kindle and owning an iPad here, my experience with Kindles being limited to attempting to migrate a Yellow book onto a Kindle (which I had permission of the publishers to do, I hasten to add).


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