Evaluation Scotland Wales
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Digital Tax for Older People: What Works?

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

[This is an extract from the Executive Summary of the evaluation report. Further amendments may be made to this Summary, pending review by the Evidence Hub partner]

The project aimed to answer the question: For older people aged 60+ with low levels of computer skills, what works well to enable them to access and manage their own digital personal tax accounts and overcome barriers to engaging with their finances online?

The project was aimed towards struggling older people in retirement across the UK who had below Basic Digital Skills as defined by Go ON UK. Four different methods of support were provided to help participants to access their Personal Tax Account (PTA) and/or their Self Assessment form online through the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website by themselves. Participants had the following options: a written guide, an online guide, over the phone support from an adviser or face-to-face support from a volunteer adviser.

The study

This was an outcome-based evaluation to assess the impact of different types of intervention to help older people to access online tax tools. The evaluation included the collection and analysis of quantitative data taken during the process of recruiting participants, and again four weeks after the intervention in order to measure any change in digital and financial understanding and capability. The project ran from September 2017 to January 2019 and in total, 310 older people signed up and received help through the project and 216 (69%) provided responses to the follow-up survey. The evaluation focused on the following MAS outcome measures:

  • Behavioural (managing money well day to day)
  • Mind-set (attitudes and motivation)
  • Ability (skills and knowledge)

Key findings

The different methods of support resulted in different levels of success to access and manage online personal tax information; the most successful methods in this study were through a written guide (82% were able to access their PTA and/or complete their online tax return using this method) and through face-to-face support (81% were able to access their PTA and/or complete their online tax return).

Through the process of accessing online personal tax information, participants reported a perceived improvement in some aspects of financial capability, specifically: satisfaction with their current financial situation; knowledge of where to go to get help with finances, and; understanding the need to keep track of their income and expenditure. In addition, participants reported a perceived improvement in their ability to: use the internet, and; check online that they are paying the correct amount of tax.

For those who were unable to access their online tax accounts (23%), for most (63%) this was due to identification issues with the HMRC website which were beyond their control. There was an unwillingness to try again by the majority (88%).

Points to consider

Engaging participants: Recruiting the target number of participants, within our required parameters proved to be challenging. The majority of Tax Volunteers clients asked (81%) did not want to access their PTA or complete their Self Assessment online, the main reason being that they did not own a computer.

Issues with accessing HMRC online tools: Not all participants could access the HMRC online tools due to HMRC having access to limited or no information to be able to identify them. HMRC, via certified companies, can check the identity of a customer using records held by mobile phone providers, credit agencies, HM Passport Office or the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). However, for those without a UK passport or driving licence, or who have little or no credit history, they cannot be identified and therefore are unable to access HMRC online tools.

No control group: Our study did not include a control group and as such, it is difficult to say with any certainty that any changes in the skills and behaviours of the participants are as a result of the intervention.

Short-term outcomes: Due to the limited time-frame of the study, the evaluation has focused on the short-term outcomes; between one and two months after intervention. In order to fully explore the longer-term impact of the intervention, it would require a longer evaluation timeframe.

Self-reporting: It is important to note that the measures used in the quantitative survey were self-reported and do not provide objective information.

This project has developed a template which can be replicated in the future and any similar projects should aim to minimise the limitations outlined above as much as possible. Even with these limitations, the intervention and evaluation approach taken allowed the objectives of the project to be met.

Key info

Client group
Activities and setting
Written guide, an online guide, over the phone support from an adviser or face-to-face support from a volunteer adviser.
Programme delivered by
Tax Volunteers
Year of publication
Contact information

Katy Graham, Project Manager - [email protected]