So the Inland Revenue has chosen an overworked Irish housekeeper to promote self assessment and improve the number of people getting their forms in on time.
Mrs Doyle, a character from the hit TV show Father Ted, represents the Revenue’s switch to a celebrity strategy to encourage better compliance.
Clearly, it also indicates that the Revenue is keen to be seen in a different light and that it is undergoing fundamental change.
Revenue functions have altered radically. Since it took on the role of administering the working families tax credit, it has become a benefits agency as well as tax collector. And Revenue chairman Nick Montagu wants to see the culture of the department updated so staff know they are not only enforcers of law, but also there to help taxpayers understand how much they owe and what they are owed.
It would, however, be a mistake to assume Mrs Doyle alone will massively increase the Revenue’s standing. The ads themselves are quite lifeless, despite her eccentric contribution. It will take a long project to change public perception of the Revenue, if it’s possible at all.
There is #5m set aside to promote self-assessment, most of which will probably end up in the pockets of agency M&C Saatchi. Clearly this will be the crucial test. A strategic campaign will emerge, and no doubt it will be very glossy. But only when we see it will we be able to make up our minds whether the Revenue is changing hearts and minds – or beating its head against a brick wall.
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