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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
Inland Revenue image: Your views
Tax return
The Inland Revenue has appointed ad agency M&C Saatchi to give it a more user-friendly image.

We asked News Online users how they would improve the image of the UK taxman.

Judging by the majority of the responses, M&C Saatchi will face an uphill task convincing people to fill in their tax returns with a smile.

Most people thought the Inland Revenue should put its house in order before spending millions on advertising.

Below we give a selection of some of the replies.


The present stance of the Inland Revenue towards tax-payers seems to be adversarial, based on the presumption that all tax-payers will defraud it unless penalties are enforced.

I am subject to self-assessment and although I have higher education and a senior job in business, I feel I have no choice but to buy a software package to help me through the self-assessment prices.


The Revenue should start showing that it has a human face by its deeds. The material for good advertising will automatically follow

Tony Carter, England
Taxation is far too complicated and the Revenue's stance is to punish mistakes with automatic penalties.

Even when I have used a software package, I always fear that the Inland Revenue will come after me because some quirk of my circumstances means I have filed an incorrect return by mistake.

On top of this we have the news that the Revenue only expects to get a proportion of tax assessment right. So the rule is that it is OK for the Revenue to take risks on over- or under- taxing us, but if we behave in the same way, its full might can be brought to bear upon us.

First the Revenue should start showing that it has a human face by its deeds. The material for good advertising will automatically follow.
Tony Cater, England

Why does someone work for Inland Revenue?

With the sort of qualifications needed, he or she would better serve society in banks or as accountants.


Saatchi will get paid a lot of our money, but achieve nothing - sounds like your average government department

Derek Thornton, UK
Such people have chosen the IR because they enjoy the "power" of being in an organisation that demands money with menaces. No wonder they didn't like a friendly, fun Hector!
Nigel Rees, Briton in USA

No-one can (improve its image). How do you improve the image of an organisation that is dedicated to removing as much of our hard-earned cash as it can - either before we get it, or afterwards by demanding money with menaces (legal for them - illegal if any of us tried it!)?

No. Saatchi will get paid a lot of our money, but achieve nothing - sounds like your average Government Department.
Derek Thornton, UK

If the IR stopped spending 9m on advertising something that people are legally obliged to do anyway, then people might be a little more happy about paying a little less.


As a tax professional, I would view any such attempt to clean up the IR's image with some cynicism

Simon, UK
Or perhaps it could put the money into the NHS to buy some life-saving equipment or drugs.

What a difficult choice: 9m on a portly chap telling us how wonderful it is to do something that we have to do anyway, or 9m on something that matters. It really is all quite bazaar!
Owain Cole, UK

As a tax professional, I would view any such attempt to clean up the IR's image with some cynicism.


The IR treat all taxpayers as guilty until proven innocent - the reverse of criminal law

Steve Padraig
The IR can only be seen as the taxpayer's friend once the grossly complicated UK tax system has been simplified and the Parliamentary process - by which new tax legislation is passed through Parliament by clueless politicians - has been reformed.

Accountancy Age recently reported Gordon Brown's remarks which implied that he needs the help of an accountant to fill in his tax return - this will not do.
Simon, UK

The IR treats all taxpayers as guilty until proven innocent - the reverse of criminal law.

It breaches human rights issues with its automatic fining with no right of trial or defence.

The IR has created such complex rules that not even it understands them - why else do you get different answers to the same question at different tax offices. If you listen to a tax inspector's advice and he gets it wrong you pay the fine not the IR.

The IR does not need an image change, the image the public has of the IR is correct. If it wishes to be thought of differently then it will need to earn that respect by behaving differently to the way it does now.
Steve Padraig, UK

Communications from the Revenue range from the very personal "Please fill in your form and send it to me" to the actual form itself which practically requires a PhD to understand if your affairs are more than "I earned X, paid Y tax therefore owe Z".

I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford to pay an accountant to do it for me, but a massive overhaul of the paperwork would be a good start.

I like the US approach where you fill in two sides of paper for basic affairs and additional sheets as necessary.
John B, UK

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See also:

14 Jun 01 | Business
Inland Revenue to get make-over
10 Jan 01 | UK
Hector the Taxman RIP
02 Jan 01 | Entertainment
WWI poet target for taxman
02 Apr 01 | Business
Q&A: IR35 - a tax on enterprise?
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