We are going to become a fully accessible digital business,” the new Chief Digital and Information Officer for HMRC Mark Dearnley told attendees at the Ignite conference in London yesterday.

“This is not a big bang programme, we are doing this agile, in two-week sprints,” the new leader said of the end of the big IT programme mentality in Whitehall IT. In a race-pace presentation Dearnley outlined his plans to make HMRC a digital public service built on agile methods, open source software and internally developed skills.

Dearnley explained that HMRC still needs to reduce its operating costs by 22 per cent and at the same time enable the Government to reduce the tax gap of taxes owed but not paid. Since the Conservative-led coalition came to power and increased VAT the tax gap has increased by £1bn a year to £35bn, according to HMRC.

“We send out 193 million letters a year and receive 20 million letters and 73 million inbound calls,” Dearnley said of the opportunity to modernise and reduce costs.

“There’s a huge amount more we can do,” he said. Currently HMRC carries out 90 million transactions a year with individuals and 510 million business transactions.

“We will aim for a single view of the customer that you will be able to log on to and view. Business and individuals will be able to have a tax account just like an online bank account.

“The offer will be tailored for the most tech savvy to the least,” he said. In the summer local authority CIOs told this title that they were concerned that a gap would appear as government services went online, leaving non-technology literate members of society vulnerable.

“The multi-channel digital tax platform will have security at the heart of it. The new Government Identity Assurance Programme platform will be part of that,” he said of the programme that includes Verizon, the Post Office and Experian as service providers.

Dearnley also said real time information will be integrated into online tax return systems, so that bank statement data and personal information is automatically populated.

“The vast majority of people want to do their return right. We want to make our customers happier; everyone enjoys paying their taxes, I can see that,” he joked with the audience of business leaders. Dearnley added that real time information will also enable HMRC to inform its customers that a submission has been received and checked. Currently customers can wait at the very least 48 hours before notification.

“Self-service means you get an instant answer,” he said.

Dearnley told the audience that the revolution in HMRC services would be completed by the first quarter of 2015 through constant agile roll-outs of “small pieces of functionality coming together”.

“Today we do two roll-outs a year and the systems go down for four days a year. Instead we are going to move to frequent roll-outs that happen over-night.

“We are using as much open source as we can, and we are committed to it in our digital platform and analytics,” he said. Although when asked if open source extended to the database needs of HMRC Dearnley said:

“A cloud provider certified to IL3 for open stack data would make me very happy.”