How the Government Gateway works

Caveat: this is not a technical description of how the Gateway works. Nor does it cover the behind-the-scenes services that the Gateway provides in terms of messaging and interoperation between various government systems. But it is my description of the way it works at the front end–the signing-on bit–of government services. Because that’s where it’s most apparent, and that’s the bit that’s often misunderstood. I wrote this because I haven’t been able to find such a description anywhere else on the Internet. Which is slightly odd (isn’t it?) given that the Gateway has been around for about ten years.

For a service that plays a part in millions of online public service transactions a year, the Government Gateway is surprisingly poorly understood, and described. What you can find online varies from the noble attempt (but not exactly functionally descriptive) to the flamboyant, to the technical, and on to the slightly bizarre.

But nothing in plain language that really sets out what’s going on. And, perhaps, what isn’t. I have something of a fascination around the mechanics of authorisation and authentication, particularly when applied to government services, so here goes.

You want to a use a service that has the gateway sign-on apparatus at its front-end. Like Income Tax Self-Assessment. So you go to HMRC’s Self-Assessment service and register as a new, Individual, user (as opposed to an Organisation, Agent or Pensions administrator). Very quickly you’re taken through a brief request for your name and a password, a few warnings about the seriousness of what you’re about to do and the type of documentation you’ll need with you later on, and behold: a big long formal 12-digit User ID pops up. 848355815693 is the one I just registered.

Shriek! Did I just put my Gateway User ID out there on the Internet? Why, yes I did. (We’ll come back to why that doesn’t matter in a moment.) HMRC are now asking me to continue through the process and ‘enrol’ in the service. But we’ll pause there for the moment.

The Government Gateway uses an approach called “Registration and Enrolment” (R&E). First you have to register for a User ID (we just did that). Then you have to enrol in the various services you want to use with it. Enrolment means you go through a process, specific to the service you’re trying to use, of giving proof of who you are and that you’re entitled to use the service. Leaving it up to the service to decide how much proof is needed is a really good thing, surely? No avalanche of information required to use a simple, low-value, low-risk service? We’ll see…

In theory, therefore, you can add more and more services to your ID, leading to what becomes a single sign-on for lots of services, using the same User ID and password. In theory.

The great genius of the Gateway R&E design is that it does the reverse of what you’d expect. Instead of trying to be all secure up front–insisting you prove entitlement and identity straight away–it wilfully ignores all that and gives you a wholly anonymous, “throwaway” ID number. You can go and get as many as you like. Try it yourself, now. Really, go and do it a few times. You can either do it via hmrc.gov.uk (just my little joke) or at the Gateway’s own site. They both work the same way.

It was once memorably described by a much cleverer colleague as “an insecure keyring to which you can attach secure keys”. (Great, until you need to find your keyring.)

The great folly of R&E is that it is utterly pointless, unsupportable, and ultimately valueless for normal people in real life. Have you spotted the gaping holes yet? Before we expose them in more detail, let’s quickly look at enrolment.

For HMRC self-assessment the enrolment process is the bit where you enter your Tax Reference Number and a few other bits of identifying information. And then you wait. For a PIN to arrive in the post. As a means of confirming you are who you say you are, before you can go any further. Not quite a seamless electronic transaction there, then. In the days leading up to Jan 31st the post seems to move very slowly indeed. And you might lose that 12-digit number in the meantime.

DVLA have a twist on the process: not for them the “give us a name and here’s your ID” approach. Oh no. They ask for lots of other qualifying information, name, address, Date of Birth, Passport Number, and—of course—money before they get to the bit where they spit out your new provisional driving licence. Not bad, really.

They’ve almost masked the presence of the Gateway entirely. There’s a question at the very beginning saying: “While applying, you’ll be issued with a Government Gateway user ID. If you already have a Government Gateway User ID, simply enter it with your password.” And if you haven’t, can’t remember it, or can’t be bothered—don’t fret, you can just get another one.

Getting a sinking feeling about the value of this User ID yet? (And actually, people will fret. They will spot this sort of “do I/don’t I need to…” ambiguity and it will delay or put off some people from using the service.) Doubt is something you really want to design out of online transactions.

So, behind the scenes, DVLA just went and generated you another Gateway User ID. One you’ll probably never need again, and one which carries no security risk, but isn’t necessarily anything to do with your other Gateway relationships. Unless you happened to have a previous one to hand when you applied. (I’d love to see some stats on how many do this, by the way.)

So, let’s look at what’s really bad about all this (and I stress again that I am talking about the user experience of the Gateway as a front end to transactions: Gateway R&E. Not about the back-end messaging standards which also form part of the Gateway suite of services):

1. Unsupportable. You can’t find your Gateway ID or password: what do you do? No point approaching the Government Gateway team—they don’t know who you are. They only recorded a name and password (which you might have lost). If you’re going to start resetting passwords and handing out IDs by email you need some better checks than that. They don’t have any information to check against. (And you’ve probably spawned several by now as you’ve been navigating through various online services. Which one have you lost?) So you approach HMRC, or whoever you need to deal with at the time. And they ask for your Tax Reference Number. Because your relationship is with them and that’s how they know you. The Gateway adds no value.

2. Take-up. Despite a bit of official posturing about it being government’s preferred online transaction authentication solution, and a few high-profile services which incorporate the front-end bit in some inconsistent way, most services routinely ignore it. Look at this service list: and this service has been operating for how many years, and has had how much spent on it? The Gateway is routinely ignored at the front end because it adds no value.

3. Lack of transparency or challenge. Try and find another piece like this on the internet that explains what’s going on and casts a critical eye over value. People seem remarkably reticent to discuss something that is a pretty big feature on the government technology landscape. If they do praise it, it looks like this, emphasising the benefits to service providers of using its protocols and messaging, but glossing over the broken stuff with phrases like “allows citizens to have one user ID and password”. Yes. In theory. Oh pur-lease.

4. It’s not Your Account for Government. It never can be. It’s designed not to be. This is a particularly pernicious failing. It raises expectations that it should, somehow, be a single connection point between citizen and state online. When it’s compromised, we panic. When it fails to add any value, we’re disappointed. We’ve been, effectively, duped into thinking some sort of useful, usable functionality has been added. It hasn’t.

5. It fundamentally misreads individual user behaviour online. People do share and lose their IDs and passwords. Putting in a wait for the postman does result in everything having to be redone, and in sapping user confidence in government’s online services. The situation is slightly better for businesses, and I will concede that for business-facing transactions (and for accountants, agents and other intermediaries), Gateway R&E probably does add some value. But there’s a hell of a difference between employing someone whose job it is to get these processes right, and providing services to individuals.

One can see why Gateway R&E had some attractions: ten years ago, when it started, there was massive political pressure to bring public services online. Earlier attempts to build a secure authentication framework across all services had foundered (and still do, see numerous other posts here on this). This half-way house created a way in which the press and public could be fed stuff like that BCS line above, and we public could be left to pick up the pieces of a miserable, broken, user experience.

A value-adding single sign-on experience can be yours. If only you don’t do stupid stuff like lose passwords, IDs, or a strange little card we send you, and if you can manage to navigate around the workarounds (like that DVLA “if you already have…” stuff) that we have to build into every service to make them actually get used.

Time for a few pointed questions and FOIs, I think. Because this is fundamentally difficult territory, I think it’s had a bit of an easy ride.

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131 Responses

  1. David Hall says:

    I agree that this Gateway system is just not good enough.
    I thought I would be able to complete things with ease but previous efforts failed and today I tried again.
    I actually qualify for my pension this coming week but have been unable to progress past the dreaded gateway system, in order to get things going.

    It is a claim prevention tool as far as I can see

    It really is just intolerable

    David H

  2. Jeff Evans says:

    A few years back, I lost my driving licence, and applied for a replacement online. In the course of this I acquired a Government Gateway ID. All worked well; they even managed to pick up my passport photo to put on it.

    Recently I received a letter from DWP inviting me to apply for my State Pension. “Go on, do it online, it’s really easy”. So I tried. “Enter your GG Id”. So I did, but couldn’t remember the password. Having tried a few of my frequently-used ones, I went for “Forgot my password”. Keyed in odd bits of additional data, pressed the button … “We couldn’t successfully identify your account from the details you provided.”

    I tried going through a generic GG route. It failed again, and left me with a list of government departments I could try for help. Something about cattle subsidies, but nothing about DVLA.

    So I applied for a new ID, and have just received my new activation code.

  3. Arthur Carden says:

    Enjoyed reading your remarks. Have just applied for a new diving licence, but was told I had incorrectly entered each of my three previous registration numbers + passwords (even though I know I got them right). So I had to register yet again! Have you noticed that there is no facility on the Gateway site to make comments and complaints. Perhaps they received so many that they have decided to disable such a facility if they ever had one.were

  4. Bill Waddle says:

    You will probably find that the password recognition fails as the Gateway software can’t handle the later versions of IE or Firefox or Google Chrome.
    The workaround is to set you keyboard to capitals and then type in your password or the two new halves [if you have requested a new one thinking that the problem was that you were entering it incorrectly]

  5. Michael Brooks says:

    I echo Arthur Carden’s point re the lack of a feedback facility. I was using HMRC and decided I needed to change my password following the exposure of the heartbleed SSL flaw, but couldn’t find a mechanism on the HMRC site. Then I remembered that Govt Gateway is a separate system, found it and attempted to change my password. Would you believe that it will only accept letters and numbers and rejects special characters? It won’t allow users to set the most secure form of password, but I’ll bet if our passwords get hacked we’ll be blamed for it. If I employed a developer who designed a system like that I’d hand them their P45.

  6. Sara says:

    Government Gateway is painful to deal with. First time I forgot to activate the code I was panicking and deleted the account before I realized I can reapply, and since then I have registered so many times and didn’t get anywhere. I was searching for my tax payers reference number as the tax office didn’t send it out or I haven’t just received it, but without it I couldn’t log on GG as I also forgot the password and ID. All of them. Cause there was so many of them. Pain. Took half of my day now to realize this all is pointless.

  7. sebus says:

    What a totally pointless system, that was paid with my tax money!
    ID that does not exist any more once you forgot it, as no way to retrieve it.

    Not that any of the single services are any better. Take MoneyClaim Online. They use GG ID. But once you lost it there is no way to login. But apparently it does not matter, as everything is done by post. So why the **** GG exists in first place? I might do all by post after all.

  8. Paul says:

    Well, that’s how it works. As I’ve written, it has no idea who you actually are – just relying on subsequent interactions with departments to add some usefulness. Yes, it’s an appalling user experience when things go off the rails even slightly; the only possible argument in its defence is that it was the only feasible attempt at a solution at the time, could only have come into being by neglecting the hard issues of verification at the front door, and it has, albeit shonkily, enabled millions of online transactions. But never across services, in the way it was once hoped might evolve. (And actually that’s probably just as well given how awful the support issues would then have become…)

  9. David says:

    An unbelievably (did I just say that?) ‘system’, the sole purpose of which appears to be to foil the efforts of the manage the administration and processing of a range of crucial data/processes – adding no doubt to delays in the payment of ‘claims’. I’m not in any position to make comment regarding the technical suitability for purpose of any of the systems but the end result, if that’s what we should regard it as, has simply failed to be delivered – and what’s more, it has been funded over and over again by you and me. How many developers, writers of functional specifications, procurement heads of department and so on, ae we going to continue to fund, publicly praise for their efforts – and continue to reward for their abject and consistent failure to deliver?

  10. Paul says:

    I think the precise answer to that is: none. Because it’s going to be discontinued in favour of the replacement identity assurance service. See https://identityassurance.blog.gov.uk/ for more info.

  11. hazel says:

    I have a GGA that works successfully with my Inland Revenue log-in. This time around I decided to use it to renew my driving licence as I have recently renewed my passport and there is a current digital photo of me in their system. (It claims to be able to pick this up in these circumstances.) So I opened up the DVLA site to renew my driving licence and when prompted, typed in my GGA code and password, Rejected, Did this twice and told each time it was invalid and on second occasion that if I did it once more I would be logged out. So I went back to the Inland Revenue Site and typed it in again, and bingo straight through. Go Figure.

  12. hazel says:

    I think I have figured out my problem. I registered and was issued with a GG id and password, quite early on, in 2002, to submit my tax return online. At that time the id was 11 characters long. Since then it has changed to 12 characters (not sure exactly when), But the DVLA only recognises 12 character ids although the Inland Revenue still accepts my 11 character id without any difficulty. Presumably everyone who registered for an id in 2002 is considered too old to bother with by the DVLA..Go figure.

  13. Paul says:

    Well you actually bring attention to a fundamental issue at play, Hazel. The Gateway was designed so that the log-in credentials would never bear any relationship to the you-known-as-Hazel. Whether government systems continue to try and wash their hands of creating a pan-government ‘you’ – by attaching identity credentials, or passing off verification to a third party – or end up trying to create a central Hazel about which things are known, is the great challenge at the heart of identity system design. I should write another post drawing attention to this – especially in the light of recent Labour pronouncements about wanting more pervasive citizen relationships online (here we go with identity registers again, perhaps?). But I’m too busy trying to earn a living!

  14. Tom says:

    What a ridiculous system they’ve invented here. I’ve had a few brushes with the whole GG system before – various DVLA related things and a few other times. The whole thing is broken, fundamentally. It’s a single sign-on that doesn’t work properly across services, has no central or easy to understand way of resetting if you forget the password, and has an archaic snail-mail stage involved.

    My most recent attempt at interacting with this monstrosity is through their Self Assessment website. I can’t for the life of me remember my password, and the only time I can recall using it explicitly otherwise is through the DVLA. The SA website simply states that they cannot give me a new password if I haven’t registered for one of 2 dozen services, and the DVLA website says I can reset my password provided I can give them 3 additional pieces of arbitrary information: ‘Memorable Date’, ‘Memorable Name’, and ‘Memorable Place’. This is insanity – I can’t remember any of this stuff as it was entered years ago, and on top of that I’m now locked out of the gateway!

    Time to register another account and start this whole farce again!

  15. Paul says:

    Yup. Ridiculous. And yet – it ‘works’ for millions of transactions. (It fails and is unmanageable for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands more…) But there WAS no alternative when it was created. Not without taking that leap into deciding to have a very different citizen-government relationship. One that still has no political or popular support (once you do any sort of rigorous analysis on how it would actually work). So yes, it’s shit, but it was the only show in town.

  16. Brooke Stern says:

    Oh dear.

    Yet another thing that the government managed to get so horrendously wrong, that it has spawned a chapter of it’s own in complaints via internet.

    A system so smart it locks you out of your own account by design, then punishes you for being locked out!

  17. David says:

    In the four weeks since my initial comments, I have had occasion to contact the woefully inappropriately named ‘heldesk’ on four separate occasions relating to the system’s inability to recognise me upon my unsuccessfully attempted (but compulsory) access to the GG system fo purposes of continuing to prove that I’m actually looking for work. Most recently, the system locked me out indicating that my account has been suspended for reasons of security? Security? for a job-browsing service? The only value of this service to anyone other than those who developed it and those who continue to sing its praises, is that as long as it is required to be perpetuated, it keeps a heft cohort of IT-support staff from having to join the ranks of the ‘jobseekers’.

  18. Diane says:

    I tried to register via the Pension Service and when I went to enter my password, I noticed it wasn’t accepting some of the key strokes so – obviously- my password was not accepted! Ridiculous and a waste of time. I will have to get my Pension forecast the old fashioned way and print off the form!

  19. Ben says:

    I’m trying to find out the impact of gateway. Does anybody know or have any data about the user base and how many people have registered to use the service?


  20. Paul says:

    I think you’re probably on the right track where you’re looking on Twitter.

  21. Ben says:

    @Paul FYI although not formally confirmed seen a figure of 11m mentioned from two fairly credible sources, so gone with that.

  22. Jeff Evans says:

    @Paul: Employers have to use it to register for PAYE, unless they use a payroll bureau. Charities have to use it to reclaim Gift Aid.

    As referenced above, anybody claiming their state retirement pension has to use it for internet access, or else use a call centre – there is no snail-mail option.

  23. DISGRUNTLED says:

    Here’s a good one:
    1)waste one and a half days trying to login to HMRC gateway to submit my 2013-2014 self assesment tax return. ID or password wrong. get another. and another. and another. Oh, and wait hours and hours for the gateway to clear after the 2 hour lockout. Needless to say none worked. (I was using Google Chrome with Windows XP SP3)
    2)Reset Chrome pop-up blocker, disable adblocker, dissable anti-virus. Repeat steps above.
    3) Discover this site, and read Bill Waddle’s submission May 20, 2014 at 6:40 pm. Rummage through this machine and discover Internet Explorer 8. BINGO! ID and password accepted!
    4) First page. Do you want email reminders? YES! (enter gmail address). “We have sent a confirmation message to your address please click on the link to continue.”
    5) Open new tab IE8, login to gmail. Message from gmail “you are using out of date browser we no longer support.”
    6) Go to Chrome, open gmail, click on link.
    7) Back to IE8, Click Continue, WE’RE IN!

    Many thanks to all at this site!

  24. David W says:

    Rather like calling the Samaritans, I think! Probably saved me from throwing myself under a bus. Its reassuring to learn that I am far from alone in being fouled up by this ludicrous system. Its just taken me 3 hours to use the “Quick on-line facility using a GGW id” to apply for my wife’s 70yr driving licence! I could have filled in AND posted the form, having also printed out a photo, in about a quarter of an hour!!
    Never mind, GGW is being phased out in favour of something called Gov.UK Verify. God help us if the same bunch of chimpanzees that devised the GGW are also responsible for its follow up!!
    Mind blowing incompetance by illiterate public servants doesn’t get close. AND WE PAY FOR THIS.

  25. Paul says:

    No – different, definitely literate, chimpanzees developing the new service. p.s. it’s “incompetence”

  26. David W says:

    Well, at least I got illiterate right!

  27. Tina says:

    Hilarious! I have had a nervous breakdown, for this very reason, as I was late filing my SA, I never received a warning, and they have decided to bill me anyway…What a degenerated, annoying and incompetent system. I agree with the first comment, it is a plot to make sure we are late or hinder us from getting anywhere..Is this paranoia? Perhaps so! But this is the second time, I am unable to get online to file my tax.

  28. Jeff Evans says:

    @Tina: Naughty – leaving it to the last minute!

  29. humanati says:

    It’s not incompetence.

    There’s no incompetence when it comes to taking your money online.

    It’s contempt for idiot tax slaves like you & I.

    You want information from Big Brother? Fuck you. We will spy on you whenever we want to. We’ll record ALL your emails & phone calls because “If you haven’t got anything to hide, then you haven’t got anything to worry about”
    But you have no right to demand anything from us because WE FUCKING RULE YOU SLAVES.
    Just keep paying your taxes. ALL of them. As many as we can think up to steal from you.
    And if you don’t pay, then we’ll steal your property & take your liberty.
    It’s called EXTORTION usually, but not when government does it.
    As long as you keep taking it, we’ll keep doing it.
    Now shut up as we sell your country & UNBORN CHILDREN into DEBT SLAVERY to the BANKSTERS because that’s who we really work for, NOT YOU SUCKERS…

  30. Mike says:

    In database parlance, allowing multiple User Id’s to be associated with a single email address is flawed for individuals accounts. You may attach different services to different User id’s and get in a complete pickle. This is because you can only attach a service to one User id. If you re-register with the same Email address, the site should stop the process.site I’m surprised no one’s DOS’ed the registration site with multiple registration requests. Imagine if Amazon had a system like this and told you you couldn’t buy DVDs because that section was registered against another User Id on the same email address. They’d be out of business pretty quickly I think. Individual registration could be done simply with a primary entity such as the person’s Unique Tax Reference Number or National Insurance Number (there’s scope for de-duplication there too). As a final point, this is the statement on the Website “The Government Gateway is the website you use to register for online government services. It is an important part of the government’s strategy of delivering ‘joined up’ government, enabling people to communicate and make transactions with government from a single point of entry.” Single point of entry – only if you know NOT to re-register again EVER!

  31. Dave says:

    Thanks for this blog Paul as I thought I was going mad. As a sad trained techie who is approaching pension age, I wanted to find out how much my U.K pension will be. I am only due about 5 years worth as I left the UK many moons ago. So am expecting about 7 quid a week. Well, at least that’s a bottle of half decent red wine a week on the dear college boys who run my homeland. Anyway, enrolled and was surprised to find the Gateway recognized me and my overseas address. This was probably down to fact that I returned to the UK once seeking employment and registered at a job center. Being thus impressed, I received by snail mail confirmation of my 12 digit I.D. and a week later my highly secret activation code. But like some who have commented here got the dreaded wrong password message. I used a Chrome browser to log in, so tried it with Firefox, but still no joy. I think I then tried Internet Explorer, but can not be sure as I have been to bed since then. What I do remember is that all attempts to log in failed so I re-enrolled when my details had expired. This time I set a real easy password (following their password rules) and today got a new 12 digit I.D. and a new activation code in two separate letters and only a few days after re-enrolling. I was thinking efficiency has improved and there must be a general election looming. But you’ve guessed it. Log in failed. Have exceeded the 3 goes and your out so later on will try logging again using Explorer as someone here recommends. But I am of the opinion that the government is hoping that I pass away before I reach 65 to deprive me of my weekly wine treat. Maybe I’ll post back here and let you know how I get on if I should live so long already.

  32. Dave says:

    Update on above post. My story is sad. I could not use Internet Explorer 8 as my system will not support it. I deleted I.E 11 from my directory, this took some hours, but could only downgrade to I.E. 10. Tried to log in to Gateway using this but failed. By this time my wife had walked out taking the cat with her and my supplies of chicken soup that I keep for such emergencies. I pressed on and downloaded a new super duper version of I.E 11 from Microsoft complete with lovely new security updates. Tried to log in again to Gateway and failed. Then re-installed the dreaded Java Script, disabled all cookie blockers and tried the third time, it failed and I was locked out. By this time my wife, Ester, had returned but minus cat and soup tins. She then found a U.K. Gov site that had a pension calculator on it. Entered details and found my pension will be £27.32p all in 5 minutes. I now have to go and find the cat using my latest Sat Nav cat finder. I may be gone some time.

    Seriously though, the Gateway log in system is a total shambles. All those involved would not last 5 minutes in the private sector. It pains me to think how much money has been wasted on this system by incompetent public service workers being ripped off by incompetent programmers who can only exist by feeding off others incompetence.

  33. Paul S says:

    Hello all, glad I found this rare site commenting on GG, at least I know its not just me. Appreciate this is not a forum for problems but if anyone can help or tell me if I am being completely thick or not it would be appreciated (although having spent 20 years using computer systems in the private sector – I don’t think its me that the problem) Ok so I have my GG account set up with user ID along with UTR and James Bond type Activation Code just arrived in the post. However when I follow the instructions and log on to GG to ‘Activate’ my service (self assessment) there is absolutely no link to be found for ‘Action’ or ‘Activate Service’ All it is letting me do is go through the self assessment enrolment process again and part way through obviously stops me as it says I am already registered. So please do tell…where is the Action / Activate link / tab??? I have emailed the help-desk and am holding my breath in hope of a quick reply..(now on day two holding breath)
    Many thanks in advance!

  34. Matty says:

    Hi, just spent a frustrating 30 mins trying to use my I.D and password on the State Pension Statement log in. I attempted to use my known and proven details that I use on the HMRC site but were told that they were wrong.
    Trying to avoid the “three strikes and you’re out” situation I browsed the comments on this site. I then noticed that my password wouldn’t register using lower case. On re-submitting the password in upper case it worked.
    I noticed further requests for details needed to be entered in upper case also.
    There I was happy as Larry with my “Eureka” moment only to get to the last page which informed me that I had a mis match of details and needed to phone the Helpdesk. They couldn’t help but gave me another number, they couldn’t help either and I was given another number to phone, which I did. After all this runaround I got to speak to someone that knew what he was talking about, unfortunately he was a Toyota Dealer in Sheffield! He gets @ 20 calls a day regarding the GG, some problem with BT apparently.
    In the meantime I’ve decided to work until I die as claiming my pension is much too exhausting for me.

  35. Dave says:

    Loved that last reply. All those people in government offices doing absolutely nothing of any worth at all and taking your money for doing it. Then the only guy who could help was someone receiving misdirected phone calls! I hope the next government continues with cuts and the stupid people get real jobs somewhere.

    Anyway my own update is I gave up. 1 to civil servants and the useless programmers they gave a billion pound contract to and 0 to me. Yesterday, I received from the pension people where I now live a form to complete for my pension rights here, plus another form about my UK pension to complete and they will send it off to the UK on my behalf. A free Skype call to a friend here who is 65+ confirms the same happened to him and he now receives his local pension and his UK pension every month. Result? 1 -2 to me away from home.

  36. C Davies says:

    I spent the whole afternoon trying to get onto the online self assessment but I still have no idea how I might be able to do that. I can get onto the Government Gateway but then when I try to enrol for self assessment and I give various details such as NI number I am told that I cannot enrol because I have done so already. They suggest ringing them and I have already spent half an hour waiting for them to answer when I did that.

  37. Dave J says:

    I have wasted so many days and hours trying to log on to my GG account without success.
    I cannot fin my original log in details.
    I am trying to place a vacancy with the Universal Job Site.
    When I try to re-register and give my email addresses of which I have 2 it states that the email addresses are not authentic.
    and this is always after I have wasted time filling in a form.
    Can any one help me or give me a contact number
    Gettin desperate now

  38. KeithM says:

    Hi folks,
    I’m afraid you have found the reality of Government Websites.
    Most of them don’t work well. I know of systems that cant process payment print runs during the day because the system would crash!
    As a friend of mine once said, the place is full of broken arrows. Absolutely bloody useless and still cant be fired! This was in reference to the management teams within government departments. Since they have all been promoted to their true level of incompetence, it is hardly surprising that they produce, or accept, systems that are as flawed as they are! I know of one manager who was just going to sign off on a project, and accept it into the business, because the deadline had come and he didn’t want to tell his boss that it wasn’t ready!
    Those are some of the reasons why the systems will always be a serious hash up and a piece of expensive door jam!
    having fought with this system for 4 months, and sent them screen shots, the answer I got back was just click on that button that says Government Gateway in the center of the screen and merge your email accounts on the system. What you mean the one that I showed you only asked for a new email address? and then told me that it was already in use on the system and couldn’t be used? Yes, that one!
    Don’t bother contacting them either. You can email them from their system. Their response was that if it didn’t work, they could delete the account!
    Nice one guys! Goes along with the ‘just wait for year and the system will delete your email account as long as its never used’ that I got from the wonderful Microsoft Helpdesk when I told them I needed an account removed from a website I had with them that got screwed up.I left them the following day!
    Systems designed and implemented by ‘my mate next door’ can do that people who couldn’t spot dog at the interview stages, because they only employ people exactly the same as themselves.
    As someone who has worked in IT since before there was a computer on your desk, it is seriously worrying what we are getting landed with these days.
    I wish you all well. But praying might be a good option, I don’t see it changing any other way :)

  39. Rosemary T says:

    I can’t decide which of us is the more stupid – me for reaching 70 or the incompetent Civil Servants. I have just tried to renew my Driving Licence at 70 and thought to use the GC. I forgot both the number and my password and scrolled down to the ‘Help” Section. I was asked to put in a ‘Memorable Date’. I didn’t have one so I clicked ‘Help’ and was told “Put in a memorable date.” I scrolled down to Memorable name. I tried a few and failed so clicked on “Help” and was asked “Put in a memorable name.” Need I tell you what happened when I scrolled down to Memorable Town ….. other than to say it was worth a good laugh but unfortunately at tax payers’ expense.

  40. Dave says:

    After my previous posted comments on the fiasco that lies behind government administration, I never did proceed further than trying to enter a gateway password – after registering twice! The second time I chose a real easy password and was extra careful to enter my ever so secret password they sent me.

    As an expat, the authorities here wrote to to the UK pension bods asking them to confirm the amount of my UK pension and to set up a payment plan. That was 14 weeks ago and I have yet to hear about their reply.

    As a former technician, I live in hope that technology will finally see the majority of useless civil servants out. Technical data handling etc will, in my opinion, get so easy, that stupid people and the equally stupid people who set up the systems, will be seen for what for they are. Then we can get back to where decent salaries and private pensions belong to the private sector and we have good government administrators managing things. The sacked civil servants can get jobs building sonic processors and the like. A pipe dream? Maybe.

  41. Tom says:

    Just had awful experience in trying to sign up for PAYE for employers through the Government Gateway, what a terrible website, and even the HMRC help pages are unhelpfull, to me at least.

    Their system is badly designed and illogical. I wasted so much time signing up for PAYE only to find out that you have to go on a different website from the GG in order to enrol for this service, which is completely stupid, they then send you an activativation code, which never showed up, meaning this whole process has dragged on and on.

    Had to wait 40-50 minutes to get through to HMRC and only after making the third call did the person understand what the problem was, and sort it out, unfortunately she had a patronising attitude throughout the call and then at the end said “See, how easy was that!”

    Could have strangled her.

  42. Jimbo says:

    The GG has directed me to the Motoring website but it just won’t recognise me at all…
    I need to change the details on my licence.
    I have entered my full name, last 2 addresses, and even Driver Licence Number, but alas I’m advised I must have something wrong… and that I should please call the ‘helpdesk’… which is a pre-recorded message directing me to the website!!

  43. Colin Mills says:

    I just signed up for a gateway ID because I need to register to the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). I entered my name, email and password and then I briefly saw my Gateway ID before being redirected to the login page.

    I never even got the chance to see it, never mind write it down. They haven’t even sent me an email with my ID, just a confirmation email.

    Now I can’t even login in and the “lost my user ID” link takes me to a page asking me all kinds of questions, like what services did I sign up for? I never even got the chance to sign up for any services.

    Am I missing something or am I locked out out before even getting in?

    Thanks for any response

  44. r mullins says:

    Inadequate website.Well this government are inadequate and not fit for purpose..like for like.Enough said.

  45. Sam says:

    I recently set up a Government Gateway account for a small online business, (which isn’t actually making me any money yet!). Since then, I have needed to register with Universal Jobsearch, but when I use my current user ID and password, it will only allow me to use the Jobsearch facility as an “employer”, even though I set it up the business as a sole trader. Are you allowed to set up two Gov Gateway accounts, and if so, do I need to use another email address ?

    Hope someone can help !

  46. Paul says:

    I’m afraid I don’t know. This post is more an attempt to explain how the Gateway does (and doesn’t) work. Because each service that uses it has the ability to make difference choices about how it’s used and presented, some knowledge of the specific service is required in order to give any support on it, and I don’t know anything about this one. I’m sorry that the Gateway has such lousy customer support, but as I’ve said in the post, this is something of an inevitable consequence of the way in which it was created. They really know nothing about their customers, by design.

  47. Mike Atkinson says:

    From what I can see, Gateway users fall into two categories, Individuals (the vast majority) and everything else. Individual users should be able to manage their tax returns, pensions, driving licenses etc online.
    Unfortunately the system does not check if individuals are already registered, so it is possible to have more than one account which typically happens when an individual looses their logon credentials and inadvertently re-apply.
    The architects of the system need to deal with this by using a National Insurance Number or tax reference number of an individual as the unique user ID for each individuals account. (I have two such accounts, one for my PAYE and one for my Government Pension.) I cannot de-duplicate these accounts and the system will not allow me to assign my Pension to my account for PAYE )

    All other accounts (such as those used by businesses, accountants etc) need a different account and it if memory serves, you may be able to re-use your email, although I would advise setting up a separate business email (e.g. on gmail or yahoo) to keep your personal individual notifications from HMRC separate from your business notifications.
    I hope this is helpful

  48. Ian says:

    Well what a surprise – it’s not just me that’s having problems claiming my state pension through the government gateway. After thinking I’d completed the online application giving all information requested and getting the ‘green light’ message ‘Your claims been submitted’ I then received a letter giving me a second activation code (having already had one sent for “State Pension online activation code”)for “Memorable Information Activation Code” but no information as to how or where I should use this before its expiry in 28 days. I therefore rang DWP and after explaining why I was calling was asked to validate certain information as not everything I had entered on the online application had been updated to their system, and furthermore I was advised that they could not tell me how to use the most recently received activation code as they did not use the system themselves. We then spent at least 10 minutes re-affirming everything I had already entered on the DWP online system only a few days earlier and had confirmation that all necessary data had been entered. I had naively assumed that having registered with the government gateway some years ago and used the HMRC system for many years for SA tax returns that there would be commonality of shared databases between government departments, but I was told that although HMRC can see all DWP data it does not work the other way around.
    Why was I not surprised?

  49. David W says:

    Another year and things seem just to get worse. I spent an hour and a half trying to get to my self assessment form last night.
    Turning down an option to set up a Gov-uk id (“It will only take 10 minutes and you can use it to log onto the Gateway”… Why, for God’s sake?) I logged on to Gov Gateway using my old Id and password… Sorry but you need to add a second level of security using a mobile phone text. Foolishly I didn’t deny having a phone and entered my number. Amazingly a PIN arrived by text. I entered it and was greeted by a welcome back page with correct personal details and a record of my last login. This is better, I thought and selected self assessment which took me to new page with links to 2015/16 expected income, expected tax, including potentially useful breakdowns… Except that the figures they kindly broke down were complete nonsense!! The only link that was missing was one to the 2014/15 tax return!
    Persevering, I tried a “View your self assessment” link. This provided me with an option to “Claim for deferral of payment on account” which rather seemed to imply I had already completed my tax return!
    After another 45 minutes of fruitless ferreting around, including the odd excursion out to totally irrelevant help pages, I found myself back at the HMRC gov Gateway log in screen having never logged out! At this point I wanted to die but instead sent off a rather huffy feedback to the ‘beta’ baboon team.
    Calming down a little, I logged back in, received a new PIN text, entered it, arrived at the same self 2015/16 tax summary page with all incorrect data still there. With heavy heart I pressed “View your self assessment….” and duly arrived back at the Claim to defer payment on account BUT, Joy upon Joy, another link appeared which took me to the old familiar on-line tax return input form.
    I suspect that if only somebody had suggested logging out and in again after setting up the new PIN text security thing, I would have added an hour to my day and avoided breaking a new blood pressure record! These clowns probably don’t even understand what happened.
    Hey ho, at least it’s not the 31st or it would have cost me £100 as well!

  50. Paul says:

    I’m glad you got some sort of useful service even after all that. I’m curious about what put you off getting a Gov UK ID? It should prove to be more generally useful to you for other services. And it doesn’t involve giving any information to the government directly – it relies entirely on approved third parties checking you out and issuing you with log-in details. What put you off? Could be useful insight.

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