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.
Similar tactics have been used in letters sent to suspected tax evaders to encourage them to come clean. HMRC sent out 5,000 of these “nudge” letters earlier this year to people with Swiss accounts.
Danny Alexander 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 where 100,000 taxpayers were tested to see which wording was most likely to encourage them to pay up.
The tests revealed that phrases like “nine 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.
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