Case study

Helping HMRC deliver its new plastic packaging tax platform


In April 2022, the government introduced a new tax designed to encourage businesses to use at least 30% recycled plastic in their packaging – with the aim of diverting more plastic from landfill or incineration.

Opencast worked with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to help it deliver a platform for the new plastic packaging tax (PPT) online registration, return and payment service. We worked with HMRC’s digital platform teams and other IT partners to develop an intuitive, easy-to-use PPT service that would meet both user needs and policy requirements. In November 2022, the new service passed its public beta assessment at the first attempt – and in June 2023 the team passed a Government Digital Service (GDS) assessment to take the service fully live.

  • Single digital destination for businesses

  • Reliable and robust platform

  • Solution aligned to user needs


A digital solution to register and pay plastic tax

The plastic packaging tax (PPT) came into force on 1 April 2022 to help tackle the problem of plastic pollution. It is designed to tax businesses who are manufacturing or importing plastic packaging into the UK with less than 30% of recycled plastic content.

HMRC needed a digital solution for business users to register, submit a return form and make payments. Opencast worked with HMRC’s digital platform teams and other IT partners to complete and deliver the new service.

A multi-disciplinary Opencast team provided technical, user-centred design (UCD) and delivery expertise. Our consultants collaborated closely with the wider team, and were able to use extensive knowledge of HMRC’s multi-channel digital tax platform (MDTP) to help.

A crucial element of the project was to help build the trust and confidence of stakeholders in the emerging product – and to create documentation and evidence to support the team’s development choices.


Work with stakeholders for a fit-for-purpose service

Opencast’s commitment to user-centred design (UCD) helped HMRC’s digital platform teams to deliver a high-quality and sustainable service, with users front of mind.

The team recognised the impact that the complex, changing nature that the PPT legislation would have on customer requirements. Opencast mobilised content and interaction designers to help ensure a strong emphasis on UCD.

Opencast helped the wider team to develop a solution that focused on providing an intuitive and easy-to-use service. An agile approach ensured sprint-based iterations with effective communication, supported by evidence gathered from key stakeholders.

Direct work with businesses that were registered for PPT meant that the project would be informed by evidence gathered from service users.

The Opencast team organised frequent collaborative sessions that encouraged productive conversations and allowed voices across the project to be heard, helping to build trust, inform strategic business decisions and shape the product design.

Developer expertise included extensive past HMRC experience to support the transition to HMRC’s new ‘scaffolding’ approach. The service was able to pass multiple Government Digital Service (GDS) assessment surveys during the scaffold process.

Technical details

Software lifecycle from application development through to release and IT operations: we followed an agile and iterative approach (using scrum principles), releasing in small increments. We worked within HMRC’s infrastructure and harnessed HMRC pipelines to regularly test and deploy into production. We also re-evaluated development processes and followed test and behaviour-driven development best practices. 

Supporting live service, harnessed automated tooling: to support rapid releases (Jenkins for CI/CD) and harnessed HMRC ‘scaffolds’ to build pages, forms and journeys quickly, enabling rapid form creation and deployment. HMRC scaffolds have helped to drive consistency, improve quality and reduce feature creation time. This also supports a UCD approach to build the journey up progressively, creating an MVP then iterating and improving. 

Dev/Sec/Ops engineering and platform development: integrate within HMRC’s platforms and configure our instances in the platform appropriately. 

Applying enduring care in live: using various monitoring tools and optimising their use, we lowered alerting thresholds and uncovered issues that needed to be resolved at pace. This was also made possible by ensuring that our code base is prepared to deploy imminently. We also provided out-of-hours support when required. We significantly reduced live service issues that were prevalent when we took over the service. As part of our approach to troubleshooting incidents we also ‘crowded’ solutions, hackathon-style, bringing together varied teams.


A new online service with great user experience

Users of the new PPT service were able to successfully complete a three-point process of registration, form submission and payment. The new service was also able to handle penalties and allow users to amend their return.

Opencast helped to test and iterate the live service, ensuring the solution remained in line with user needs and Government Service Standard accessibility requirements. A holistic scaffold review reduced the time needed to create new features by approximately 60%.

As a new tax, PPT went through policy changes as it developed. A strong commitment to internal collaboration continued, and trusted ways of working and business values ensured a smooth transition to the new service.

Opencast’s input into the development of the new platform helped PPT to pass its public beta assessment at the first attempt in November 2022. In June 2023, the HMRC PPT team passed its GDS assessment to take the service live.

In May 2023, PPT was shortlisted for ‘outstanding team of the year’ by the UK Real IT Awards. In addition, the Digital Technology Leaders Awards ranked the PPT project as ‘highly commended’ in its 'most successful environmental project' category.

Impact stats below from PPT stats page on GOV.UK



HMRC PPT receipts collected in 2022/23


Businesses registered to PPT
(8 Aug 2023)


plastic packaging declared as taxable


of non-taxable packaging
used 30%+ recycled plastic

Opencast’s input into the development of the new platform helped PPT to pass its public beta assessment at the first attempt in November 2022. In June 2023, the PPT team passed its GDS assessment to take the service live

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