‘Threatening’ text messages from the HMRC have been reported by taxpayers. The messages state that the taxpayer is being ‘monitored’ to ensure they pay on time.
A taxpayer- who had previously been contracted by the HMRC about their debt- received three types of texts in a trail run by the Governments ‘nudge’ unit or Behavioural Insights Team.
‘The ‘Standard’ SMS message simply alerted the recipient to the debt and told them how to pay.’
-The ‘Nudge’ unit
The message campaign is reported as consisting of 'Standard', 'Monitoring', and Targeted text messages that are all send to taxpayers.
A ‘monitoring’ message is sent to point out that the HMRC will be monitor whether or not a taxpayer’s debt was paid the following week.
A ‘Penalties’ message includes the phrase ‘Most people pay on time to avoid penalties.’
The result of the HMRC’s message sending technique of ensuring payments, only is reported to have had a 2.3% affect on increasing payments.
The ‘monitoring’ message raised payment rates of 3.8% and the ‘penalties’ message had a 7% affect in increasing payments.
The unit also targeted late taxpayers with other text messages that reminded them of the deadline and that they ‘were late last time.’ This is said to have increased the late payers meeting the deadline date by 50%.
‘People are always scared when they receive a message from the HMRC- even the nice ones. Certainly anything threatening would not be acceptable.’
-Anita Monteith, senior tax policy adviser at Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and wales.