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HMRC using psychology to make people pay

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has revealed that HMRC has altered wording of hundreds of thousands of reminder letters in an attempt to prompt people into paying outstanding tax.

Apparently HMRC is using a team of psychologists and “behavioural economists” to make people feel guilty if they fail to pay tax on time.

The reminder letters now used include statements highlighting that the great majority of people pay their taxes on time whilst setting out the importance of taxes in funding public services.

A similar approach, developed by the behavioural analysis team, is being used to target potential tax evaders who are, it seems, being sent letters asking them to clarify their tax affairs.

The Chief Secretary said: “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 has said that it conducted trials involving 100,000 taxpayers to “pinpoint the exact words and concepts” which make people more likely to pay their taxes.

The change in wording has so far, apparently, led to an estimated £210 million worth of additional tax revenues each year.



Date: 17th December, 2014
Author: Cathy Corns


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