Via Samizdata, food for thought:

So, here’s the text of one of HMRC’s standard letters. My constituents are rightly complaining about them after having been scared witless that they, decent law-abiding individuals and families who had in fact paid, were about to have property seized and sold by the state.

Dear Sir/Madam

To avoid extra tax costs, please pay £xxxx.xx

Since I last wrote to you, most of those still owing tax have paid, making their contribution to the vital services we all depend on.

We still haven’t received your tax payment, and my team are now focussing attention on the rapidly reducing number of people like you who have yet to pay. Not paying your tax on time has serious consequences. We must collect this tax from you to pay for the hospitals and schools we all rely on. We will do that by taking your possessions and auctioning them publically [sic]. We don’t like doing this because people have told us it is embarrassing for them and it will cost you so much more to pay this way. For instance, if your car is worth several thousand pounds, it might sell for only a few hundred pounds at auction, a flat screen TV costing £2,000 would typically sell for about £200 – £300, and an £800 laptop would sell for about £100.

To avoid this, please call one of my team on the number at the top of this letter to pay by debit or credit card. You can also get information about how to pay online or by other payment methods at Or you can send a cheque with your printed payslip to HMRC, Bradford, BD98 1YY.

Some people who have a problem paying their tax bury their head in the sand. In fact, many people find that speaking to us helps.


I have seen copies of letters demanding as little as £130 with these menaces. The use of so-called ‘nudge’ techniques set out in awful detail in Mindspace is obvious:

  • Most people have paid, doing the right thing by making their contribution. You haven’t and you are one of a diminishing number of reprobates.
  • We’re coming for you.
  • We’ll humiliate you.
  • We’ll ensure it costs you dear.
  • We can help you.

So here we are, in a terrible financial mess, and the answer, it seems, is to raise taxes and to increase the weight of threats against the public. Lowering tax rates would ensure an increase in revenue, both through voluntary compliance and through creating incentives to earn, but we have been reduced to the tactics of the Mob.

George certainly ought to help. I mean George Osborne of course, who should take steps to lower taxes.

Further reading

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