Psychologists help HMRC by inspiring guilt in taxpayers!
HMRC has employed a team of psychologists and ‘behavioural economists’ to make taxpayers feel guilty if they don’t pay on time.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, revealed that the Revenue has subtly changed the wording of thousands of reminder letters in a bid to encourage people to pay up.
One approach has been to highlight the importance of taxes in funding public services and how the “great majority” of taxpayers pay up on time.
HMRC found response to letters was significantly higher when it told recipients that most people had paid up already, and even higher when they made a comparison with other people in their post code or town.
Danny Alexander has threatened: “We are using psychologists and behavioural economists in HMRC to get the money quickly. Tax dodgers beware – we know where you live, we know how much you owe, and now we know how you think. Your behaviour is unacceptable, and we are coming for our money.”
HMRC said the letters were developed through a series of large-scale trials in which 100,000 taxpayers were tested to see which wording was most likely to encourage them to pay up. The tests revealed that phrases like “9 out of 10 people in the UK pay their tax on time” provoked the best response, closely followed by references to public services.
HMRC said that the changes should lead to an estimated £210 million of additional tax revenue each year.
Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.