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HMRC sends text message warnings to taxpayers

19 Sep 2016

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has begun sending text message warnings to taxpayers designed to prompt them to pay their taxes on time.

In a trial conducted by the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), taxpayers received three different text messages. A ‘standard’ message alerted them to their outstanding debt and provided instructions on how they could pay it.   

A second ‘monitoring’ message informed individuals that HMRC would be monitoring their situation in order to check whether the debt had been paid. 

A third ‘penalties’ message told taxpayers that ‘most people pay on time to avoid penalties’.

The BIT discovered that, by sending the standard message, payment rates increased by 2.3%, whilst the monitoring message increased payment rates by 3.8%. The penalties message raised rates by 7%.  

Commenting on the trial, Anita Monteith, Senior Tax Policy Adviser at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), stated: ‘Messages can feel invasive, especially when they relate to debt.

‘Many people fear any contact from HMRC, even when they have done nothing wrong, so it is very important that these do not cross the line and appear threatening.’  

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