Essentially, the most accessible and straightforward way of dealing with HMRC is online. All of HMRC’s digital services can be found on GOV.UK, along with information and other guidance all together in one place.
Although HMRC’s digital services can be accessed by anyone, you’ll need to prove your identity to actually use them yourself. There are two ways to do this; either with a Government Gateway, or through GOV.UK Verify.
In most cases you’ll be prompted to sing in with a Government Gateway user ID and password.
How do I get a Government Gateway ID?
You can sign up for a Government Gateway ID quickly and easily on the GOV.UK website. To register you’ll need:
- Your National Insurance number or UK address
- Your P60, a recent payslip, or a valid UK passport
How will my Government Gateway ID be sent to me?
Your new user ID will be sent to you by email or post once you sign up. The password will be something you choose yourself. If you request new details, or an update to your details, then these will also be sent to you the same way.
What does the Government Gateway ID look like?
Your Government Gateway ID is generated automatically as a combination of up to 12 numbers. For example, 123412341234.
How do I use my Government Gateway ID?
Keep your ID and password safe as you’ll need them every time you log in, but the security doesn’t stop there!
Each time you enter your log in details, you’ll receive a text message containing a unique 6-digit code. You’ll need to enter this on-screen to pass the security check, and complete your sign-in for HMRC’s online services.
What can I access through the Government Gateway?
For instance, before getting stuck in with Self Assessment tax returns, you must register for Self Assessment, and link the service to your Gateway ID.
What if I’m having problems signing in with my Government Gateway ID or password?
These days we seem to need an ID and password for pretty much everything, so it’s no wonder they sometimes get forgotten.
Depending on which service you want to log in and use, you may also need to provide other information to confirm your identity, such as your name, address, NI number, or UTR number.
If you lose your activation code for a service, you can sign in and request a new one as long as you signed up less than 28 days ago. If more than 28 days have passed, you’ll need to enrol for the service again.
What can I do if I get locked out of my Government Gateway account?
You’ll be locked out of your Gateway account if you enter the wrong user ID or password five times in a row. If this happens, you must wait two hours before you can try again. It’s one of the (many) reasons accountants tell their clients to leave lots of time for tax returns!
If you’re still having problems signing in, you’ll find further information and HMRC’s contact details via their technical helpdesk.
What is GOV.UK Verify then?
GOV.UK Verify is very similar to the Government Gateway in that it’s simply another way of checking your identity when you use HMRC online services.
Again, it can be used for a number of things, but this excludes your Business Tax Account. This requires a Government Gateway ID.
Government Gateway or GOV.UK Verify: How do I know which one to use?
Anyone who is self-employed and running their own business will probably find the Government Gateway most useful. This is because you can use it to access HMRC’s full range of online services, as well as your company’s Business Tax Account if you have one. You need access to this in order to submit a Company Tax Return if your business is a limited company.
Sole traders, on the other hand, may find GOV.UK Verify is enough, particularly if you only need access to your Personal Tax Account, don’t have any employees, and you’re not VAT registered. Ultimately the choice is yours depending on your needs.