Taxpayers struggling to pay want ‘simplicity, flexibility and accessibility’

Research reveals taxpayers who are facing difficulties with their tax bills have little or no awareness of help options, but believe HMRC should do more to promote available support and make more use of YouTube

According to HMRC’s Behaviour, Insight and Research Team, taxpayers have very little or no awareness of the support options that the government tax collection agency currently offers to those who are struggling to pay their tax. This was, in part, due to customers’ low motivation to actively seek out information about tax and associated support options from HMRC.

However, customers would like HMRC to more actively communicate these support options to them. This was broadly reflected by third party organisations who had similarly low levels of awareness of the support options.

The research also found that those who were aware of HMRC’s Budget Payment Plan or Ready Reckoner were not aware of them by name.

When the research team tested these tools with taxpayers, feedback suggested that simplicity, flexibility and accessibility were necessary principles for support options to help customers who had varied backgrounds. These included varying frequency of income, irregular working patterns, responsibility for dependants and illness or bereavements.

These principles were also key to those who generally lacked knowledge about tax.

The Ready Reckoner was the most positively received support option tested with taxpayers during the research. The amount of tax they would owe was a key question and low awareness of this was a barrier to being able to budget effectively.

Third party organisations, such as debt managers and support organisations, interviewed by the research team said that taxpayers typically only contacted them after exhausting alternative options and once debts had become a significant problem. However, taxpayers had little trust in third parties as they assumed their primary motivation was making profit from their clients.

Taxpayers also urged HMRC to make greater use of YouTube videos. As one interviewee said: ‘I find the 5- to 10-minute audio/visual way is a brilliant way of instructing myself to things. You know, I’ll go on to YouTube to find out how to fix the car, or to re-wire a plug… so why not do it for tax.’

Supporting customers to pay their tax on time

By Philip Smith

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