How we helped HMRC
cut complaints by 50%

The problem

HMRC need to check that businesses pay the right amount of tax. To do this, they send compliance check letters to a number of randomly selected businesses. HMRC asked us to reduce the burdens these checks placed on businesses.


The solution

We helped HMRC change how people felt when they read the letters.

The result

Complaints about the letters have reduced by half, while overall complaints are down by 20%. The letters were well received by industry bodies like the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Administrative Burdens Advisory Board. And our work was nominated for a National Business Award.

How we did it


When we looked at the letters, we found that they carried important information: why the check was happening, what it involves, and what’s expected of the business. But more than that, the language they used shaped how people felt about the check. This in turn affected how readily they were cooperating.

As they were, the letters were hard to understand. Because of that, readers were likely to assume the worst. When someone assumes the worst, they get scared. And when they’re scared, they’re less likely to get things right first time – or even cooperate at all.

We used language to change that. We rewrote 250 compliance check letters to make them simpler, friendlier and more customer focused. We made sure each letter told a logical story, contained less jargon and explained legalese. We also made sure the letters pre-empted any questions business owners had about the process. All this reduced the emotional, financial and administrative burdens the letters placed on their readers.