CAMPAIGNS: PERSONAL FINANCE; Coping when the taxman cometh

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)

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.



Objectives



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

correctly.



Tactics



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.



Results



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

Accountancy Age.



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.



Verdict



‘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.’



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