Sponsorship of externally generated research proposals

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is introducing an initiative whereby academic and research experts can formally propose research ideas to the department and bid for financial sponsorship. This process will allow a wider network of experts to influence the development of HMRC's evidence base and incorporate recent theoretical and methodological advancements.

HMRC values evidence-based policy and is committed to utilising high quality analysis which is timely and relevant to policy development. The department has an external research budget which funds a range of research projects (PDF 34K) and commissions the expertise of analytical and research specialists. Generally the analytical focus is generated within HMRC based on departmental business objectives and evidence needs.HMRC is now inviting an external audience to initiate research ideas which can be considered alongside internally generated proposals during the development of the 2010-11 research programme.

HMRC analytical themes

HMRC undertakes research and analysis across a variety of policy and operational areas. The department has multidisciplinary teams of analytical specialists including economists, statisticians, social researchers and operational researchers. Below are current themes of analytical interest for the department, which HMRC encourage external proposals to focus on:


  • Support policy development, review effectiveness, learn lessons and improve policy making (for example):
    • the effect of the tax and benefit system on incentives to work, save and invest
    • the effect of the tax system on the environment
    • the impact of the tax system on cross-border issues


  • Tax gap measurement: expanding and improving the measurement of the gap between theoretical liability and actual receipts.
  • Drivers of behaviour: understanding attitudes to compliance and how these impact on the tax gap, how HMRC interventions change attitudes and how different types of non-compliance interact.
  • Evaluate compliance interventions: measuring direct and indirect effects of interventions.
  • Tax planning schemes: better understanding of the market for tax planning advice.

Compliance costs

  • Deregulation and compliance costs:
    • Understanding the relationship between compliance costs and other HMRC objectives.
    • Measuring change in compliance costs over time/in response to HMRC actions.

Understanding customers and operational efficiency

  • Increased HMRC focus on understanding customer behaviour:
    • Developing knowledge of customers' attitudes towards HMRC service.
    • Exploring and measuring customer perception and experience with HMRC services.
    • Evaluating HMRC operational changes/guidance.
  • Operational efficiency:
    • Exploring the impact that long-term trends will have for HMRC service provision for example, social demographics/technological changes.
  • Debt management:
    • Exploring how people perceive the debts they owe HMRC and whether they change their management of these debts over time.


HMRC funding process

The allocation of funds for external research is prioritised based on policy imperative, methodological quality and value for money.

The prioritisation process will commence in January 2010 and funding will be awarded from April 2010. Any externally initiated research ideas will be aligned with the internal process subject to the proposal demonstrating that it will inform an evidence gap and add value to policy and/or operational development. HMRC analysts and business colleagues will review the proposals and assess whether a business case should be put forward to bid for funds from the research programme. At this stage the HMRC analysts and business colleagues supporting the proposal will work with the applicant to further explore/develop the research idea, review the feasibility of the analytical approach and align it with current policy direction.


Process for submitting proposals

Initial proposals and any queries should be submitted to Steven Taylor at the address below.

The revised deadline for proposals is now the 5 February 2010.

If you wish to apply for funding from the 2010-11 research programme HMRC recommends that the proposal covers the following points, however HMRC is interested in receiving your ideas even if they are not fully developed and welcome you to discuss them at any stage.

a) Research aims and objectives

  • A short overview of what the research would be aiming to deliver.
  • A clear explanation of the research question and how it will be answered.
  • A description of how the research will inform and add value to HMRC's evidence-base.

b) Methodology

  • An explanation of what methods will be adopted to meet the research aims.
  • A review of the data sources which will be used for analysis (HMRC's own data can in some circumstances be made available for researchers working under contract to HMRC).
  • A discussion of the robustness and suitability of the proposed methodology.

c) Deliverables

  • A description of the research outputs.
  • A detailed timescale of when the project will be completed, highlighting the key project milestones.

d) Pricing

  • A clear breakdown of the cost of the project at key milestones, disaggregated by personnel resource costs (day rates), overheads, the costs associated to collecting/accessing the data, and VAT if applicable.

e) Resources to undertake the work

  • Provide a description of who will be undertaking the work, their expertise and experience.
  • Clearly indicate who would be the lead contact for HMRC for the duration of the project.

f) Quality control

  • Provide an overview of the processes that will be put in place to ensure that the research findings are methodologically sound.
  • Indicate what assurances will be made about the quality of the findings.

To aid assessment of proposals it is preferable that they are written primarily for a non-technical audience and are kept brief, within five pages excluding technical annexes and CVs, as there will be further opportunity for fuller discussions about the proposed research with the HMRC analytical sponsor.


Contractual arrangements

All successful proposals will be commissioned following HMRC's standard Terms and Conditions, a full set of which are available. All Terms and Conditions are contract specific and some of these Terms and Conditions may not be applicable, further, there maybe additional Terms and Conditions as appropriate. These proposals will be expected to demonstrate a commitment to aligning the research with HMRC policy requirements and timescales. It should be anticipated that a steering group will be established to manage the project and ensure that agreed milestones are achieved. The funding of projects will generally be staged and paid on the completion of the agreed milestones.

The Intellectual Property Right (IPR) for each project will be established on a case by case basis. However the starting assumption would be HMRC owns the IPR for the contracted research. HMRC generally publishes research reports and encourage publication in a peer reviewed journal alongside HMRC's own vehicle for publication which is the HMRC website. Any publications will be subject to final approval from HMRC.


Who to contact

If you have any queries or would like to discuss possible research please contact:

Brian O'Callaghan
Principal Research Officer
Knowledge, Analysis & Intelligence (KAI)

Email: Brian O’Callaghan