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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

The One to Many Approach: implementing a one to many approach: designing the message

Content and format of an OTM message

The content, tone and appearance of your message can all impact on how successful it is in helping the customer to comply with their tax obligations. You should word the message so that it will provoke without forcing, the change you are looking for.  An effective message will prompt the customer to improve their behaviour.

For example, if you wish to prompt a group of customers to submit returns on time, where they had not done so before, your message might stress the benefits to the customer of submitting returns on time, and the consequences of not doing so.

When the customer reads the message they are automatically encouraged to think about when they should submit their return to prevent negative consequences for them. This means they are more likely to submit their return on time. The message will have been effective in influencing the customer’s behaviour and HMRC will start to receive their returns on time.

It is important to make sure you use appropriate language which will be easily understood by the recipient. You would use different wording in a letter to a legal firm than in a letter to a retailer. You may develop a different message for a customer and for the agent who is representing them, as long as you tell each of them you are doing so.

You should remember you are trying to influence the behaviour of the customer. Focus on what information they need to know to enable them to respond appropriately rather than giving lots of technical detail or background to the message. Also make sure it is clear what they need to know at this point. Don’t overburden them with messages that will be more effective in a later communication. Generally, the shorter and punchier a communication is, the more effective it will be; so try to make your message as concise as possible but still including any vital information or any legal information that we have to give at that point.


Getting expert advice

Designing a successful OTM message is difficult. You will need support.

You can find contact details for teams that can help you at CH600280.