Taxman’s ‘Scare Tactics’ Video Tells Children to Pay Tax

A new film by HM Revenue & Customs warns children about the importance of paying tax when they are older, but it is branded a ‘scare tactic’.

The video will be released to schools later next month, aimed at children between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, as part of citizenship lessons, which are now compulsory in secondary schools in England. The classes are designed to help with managing personal finances and making children aware of how they can contribute to their society.

The film depicts HMRC staff chasing disguised tax evaders, who are dressed up as ghosts that are hiding billions of pounds from the Treasury. These ghosts are chased and eventually caught by the tax inspectors and put in prison.

The teaching modules guide children through the hazards of pay as you earn and National Insurance contributions. Schoolchildren are also taught about the tax responsibilities of a good citizen.

A spokesman for HMRC said: “The video will help young people – future taxpayers – prepare for the financial realities of life and to hold the tax system to account. We want to help students to understand how tax is collected, so that they know what to expect when they start work”.

Jennie Granger, of HMRC, said: “Educating young people so they don’t get tempted is vital. We are very proud this film is part of the national curriculum.”

However, some tax experts have been quick to criticise the film.

James Daley, a member from the Fairer Finance consumer group, said:

“Some personal finance education in schools is very useful, but trying to brainwash children into paying their tax isn’t the right way of going about it.”

Mark Giddens, a partner at the accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, said the video appears to be the latest “scare tactic” that has been used by the revenue in other video campaigns.

“This new video seems to be a similar tactic to other scare campaigns the revenue has carried out over the past couple of years to try and encourage individuals to come forward or hand over information on someone they know is not paying enough tax. I think a video aimed at children is a bit extreme.”

Earlier this year HMRC released videos that showed a pair of female eyes and the words “we’re closing down on undeclared income”.

Mike Down, a former tax inspector, who works for Baker Tilly, also called the video a “scare” tactic.

“I am all for educating children about how the tax system works, but this is the wrong way to go about it,” Mr Down said.

This is not the first time HMRC have resorted to scare tactics. Earlier on this year it was revealed that HMRC had used a team of psychologists and “behavioural economists” to analyse and change the wording of hundreds of thousands of letters sent out to the public in the hope that people would promptly pay their taxes, making them feel guilty if they didn’t pay their taxes on time.

An HMRC spokesman at the time said these letters were part of a trial to help individuals identify any mistakes they may have made on their self assessment return.

Mike Down, of accountancy firm Baker Tilly said HMRC had adopted a “scatter gun approach” by sending blanket letters to taxpayers who had not done anything wrong.

“These bully boy tactics do not help anyone, instead they just scare innocent taxpayers,” he said.

Two years ago, HMRC was criticised for a teaching module that encouraged students to reveal tax dodgers to their teachers. A teaching aid asked children if they could think of any activities in their local area where tax wasn’t being paid.

Critics at the time said it was “un-British” of HMRC to try and turn “children into state spies.” It seems like nothing has changed.

Another scare tactic video was also released earlier this year by HMRC that showed a pair of female eyes and the words “we’re closing down on undeclared income”.

Not only are HMRC playing mind games with their psychological letters, trying to manipulate us into paying taxes, but now they are trying to get into the heads of our children, brainwashing them into fearing the taxman from an early age.

I wonder if they will teach children how ‘ broken ‘ and out of date the tax system is and how many mistakes HMRC make because of their incompetence.

Will they teach children how HMRC is notorious for its glitches, IT overspends and other system-related fiascos?

Back in June, HM Revenue & Customs admitted it had collected the wrong amount of tax from more than five million people in the 12 months to April 2014.

The Taxman this year sent 2,000 demand letters to firms that didn’t owe anything because of a computer failure. Many were wrongly told they would be fined £100.