Streamlining the incorporation of a company
Two key things we have got from Public Services by Design are, a lateral approach - we understand the value of getting a wide range of perspectives - and expert management of ideas generation workshops. Bill Pollard, Deputy Business.gov Programme Director, HMRC
HMRC and Companies House are working with the Design Council to see how service designers could help make it easier to incorporate a company and register it with government.
They want to make the process of incorporation more efficient by rationalising communications to customers and by co-ordinating with other government agencies to share information in the most useful way.
Bill Pollard, Deputy Business.gov Programme Director at HMRC, says: “We already have service transformation objectives, and we believe we can deliver both government and customer benefits. But we want to think as freshly and radically as possible, particularly in the early stages of development and therefore have access to the best expertise in doing so.”
Accessing design expertise
Through the Design Council’s Public Services by Design support programme, Design Associate Sean Miller has been providing expert advice on how a design approach - that focuses on customer research and prototyping ideas – could help HMRC and Companies House.
Pollard says: “What we really expected to get from Public Services by Design was a fresh perspective. At Companies House and HMRC we recognised that we had some problems on the processes for incorporating a business and setting up tax accounts. But my concern was that we would start working to address this and come at it with our own perspective. What we wanted instead was a transformational change.”
“The Public Services by Design programme introduced us to lots of design tools and techniques that we found very helpful and will continue using. But the two key things we have got from Public Services by Design were the lateral approach, we understand the value of getting a wide range of perspectives, and expert management of ideas generation workshops. An important thing that Sean Miller helped us with there was visualisations and showing what change would a really look like. It’s not about trying to be too academic or complicated, but about bringing things to life.”
Service design opportunities
With Miller’s help HMRC and Companies House have identified opportunities for it to employ designers to help it:
- Define and communicate the benefits of using an online service to incorporate a company
- Visualise the customer’s journey through the incorporation process
- Prototype and develop an online company set-up website
HMRC has benefited from design management guidance from Design Associate Miller says Pollard: “Sean was also very helpful at, having done that opening stage, asking us where are we going to go next? It’s all good having the bright ideas but you need to understand how to put them into action. Now we are going to engage a service design agency to capture some of the thinking we started with Sean and further that customer centred approach.” thinkpublic has won the contract for the service design project which, it is intended, will be completed by the end of the year.
Pollard says: “There are two phases to this project. Some work we are doing this year anyway is to bring the key transactions together online.” On the businesslink.gov.uk website customers will be able to incorporate a new company online without having to use a company formation and registration agent. “Where possible that will be intercepted by any emerging findings from phase two,” adds Pollard who says he expects working with thinkpublic on phase two of the project, when they look at creating a joined-up experience for customers to register for VAT and PAYE at the same time as incorporating a business, will help the HMRC and Companies House team ensure that the outcomes will work for new customers:
“Service designers will give us something stronger than simply a vision of where we can get to in two or three years time.”
“Our measures of success tie in to customer and government benefits,” says Pollard. “Can we make time and cost savings and potentially boost the performance of UK businesses? There’s potential to make anything from £500,000 to £5million of benefits to businesses with this new system. Also, can we deliver benefits for the government and develop greater efficiencies in how processes operate?”
Currently, anyone wishing to set up a company in the UK has to register with Companies House. When a business is incorporated at Companies House a process occurs which creates a Corporation Tax account for that business at HMRC. However, no process exists for the automatic creation of VAT or Income Tax Pay As You Earn (PAYE) accounts. The newly incorporated business has to set-up these accounts separately with HMRC. HMRC partners with Business Link to deliver some incorporation processes, including registering for and paying Corporation Tax, online.