HMRC. Tax credits service.

I worked as part of a team building the Tax credits service. I was responsible for building the prototypes used during user research and development. Prototypes were also presented to stakeholders for sign off.

I used prototypes extensively to demonstrate user journeys and explain design thinking to product managers and other stakeholders.

Prototypes helped the team communicate more efficiently. Helping both frontend and backend developers understand layout and user journeys. A link to a relevant section of a prototype was included in the user stories held in Jira.

  1. Who I worked with
  2. How we worked
  3. User needs
  4. Business needs
  5. User research
  6. How we planned what to build
  7. Screens we built
  8. Working with and educating stakeholders
  9. Challenges

Who I worked with

  • User researcher
  • Content designer
  • Business analyst
  • Product owner
  • Developers
  • QA’s
  • Scrum master
  • Stakeholders / business
    • Policy
    • Risk
    • Compliance

How we worked

  • two week sprints
  • daily stand ups
  • weekly retros
  • monthly meetings with entire Tax credits team to present and answer questions about work completed in the previous month

User needs

The team identified the following user needs

  • who’s on my claim?
  • when is my next payment?
  • how much money am I going to get?
  • I need to tell you about a change in my circumstances

Your tax credits screen

A number of user needs met on the Your tax credits screen


Business needs

  • reduce number of calls to call centre
  • reduce fraud
  • reduce the number of overpayments being made to customers
  • enable users to self serve

User research

User research was carried out every two weeks in an onsite lab, on field visits and with customers in their homes. I participated in the majority of user testing.

User research was also carried out with call centre staff to understand their experience of dealing with customers and the limitations of legacy systems.

How we planned what to build


The whole team participated in sprint planning and estimation exercises. The latest prototype and results of user research were shared and discussed.

Screens and user journeys

Research, content design, interaction design and a business analyst worked closely with the Tax credits business teams within HMRC.

The team examined blueprints of the existing service, paper based forms and the telephonic processes. Helping the team to identify issues and reduce the need to ask customers to make complex calculations.

A user flow was designed and iterated until it met both user and business needs.

Example user flow

User flow illustrating change address and report a change in a relationship.


Screens we built

  • Your Tax credits
  • Personal details
  • Changes in circumstances
    • Relationship status
    • Number of children on a claim
    • Adding children to claim
    • Removing children from a claim
  • Income
  • Number of jobs
  • Calculating income
  • Household income

Iterative design of screens

Building prototypes and regular user research allowed the team to adopt an iterative approach to designing screens.

Household income screens

Iterative design approach to household income screen

Household income v1
Household income v2
Household income v3
Household income v4

Your details screen

Iterative design approach to Your details screen

Your details v1
Your details v2

Calculating income screens (mobile)

A significant number of Tax credits customers used the service on their smartphones. Functionality enabling customers to complete complex calculations was essential.

Income from all jobs
Estimated income calculator
Estimated income calculator - selected

Technologies and tools

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript
  • Node
  • Github

Working with and educating stakeholders

I helped to facilitate HMRC wide empathy workshops involving stakeholders and customers. With the aim of developing a deeper understanding of customer needs.

The team attempted to educate stakeholders on the need for quality data from both the business and users. In order to improve a customer’s experience of the service.

I worked with stakeholders in an attempt to reduce learning anxiety. And encouraged them to embrace uncertainty, invest in continuous learning and engage in collaboration.


User expectation was that any changes made to their circumstances using the service would update the system in real time and recalculate their claim. Unfortunately this was not the case. The service could take up to 24 hours to update. Not all changes were automated.

The challenge of designing a user centred service was made all the more difficult by not having access to the data HMRC held on existing Tax credits customers. This was compounded by a lack of trust in the actual data the team could access.

Because Tax credits is due to be replaced by universal credit in the near future there was a reluctance to consider simplifying the existing policy and process.