PR Team: In house. SCS Productions handled launch event.
Campaign: Self Assessment Takes Off
Timescale: 11 April, 1996 - ongoing
Cost: pounds 30,000 on launch day, plus pounds 110,000 on SA leaflets
(pounds 25 million on entire, three-year campaign)
The Inland Revenue is running a three-year campaign to publicise Self
Assessment, the new tax system which comes into operation next April.
The in-house team is responsible for telling the nine million people who
currently receive a tax return, that, from next year, they will have to
do it themselves.
Research had shown the IR that taxpayers expected to be told directly if
Self Assessment applied to them. So the Self Assessment Takes Off
campaign aimed to tie in with the most of the target audience received
their 1995-96 tax return, containing the bright pink leaflet explaining
SA. The campaign’s message was that people should start keeping full
financial records so they will be able to fill in their next tax return
On 11 April, the day most tax returns would land on door mats, the IR
launched its hot air balloon in Regent’s Park. The shocking pink balloon
matched the colour of the SA leaflet and displayed elements of the TV
commercial. Pink ads appeared on the front pages of most of the national
dailies telling people to look out for the leaflet in the post.
The cartoon taxman seen in the ads posed with the balloon; regional tax
offices throughout the UK had a publicity pack and reader competitions
ran in 10 regional dailies. The balloon and information centre will tour
county shows this summer.
Launch day generated an estimated pounds 680,000-worth of editorial
coverage. IRN interviews secured coverage on all its local radio
bulletins and the story appeared on main news shows, including GMTV,
ITN, Sky News, Channel Four News and some regional stations. The Sun
took photos which it will run on its personal finance page this summer.
Photo stories also appeared in the Telegraph, Daily Mirror and
The Revenue’s tracking research shows that although 94 per cent of self-
employed taxpayers are aware of SA, only 40 per cent of PAYE
contributors know what SA is all about. More information has been
requested by 341,000 people since 11 April.
‘Take Off day was a marvellous event, well reported, but the impact has
all but disappeared,’ says Tom Preece, vice chairman of the policy group
for the Federation of Small Businesses.
‘What’s more, the very people who tend to ignore their tax affairs,
particularly manual workers, are going to be the hardest hit, because,
if they ignore SA, they’ll run foul of a punishing penalty system,’ he
says. ‘So far, the campaign hasn’t made the severity of the penalty
system clear enough. And the IR will need to keep hammering home the
message, if the most vulnerable are not to be punished the most.’