HMRC has appointed American marketing guru Melissa Ledgerman to lead an overhaul of its communications and brand strategy.
As part of the new strategy, online services for taxpayers and advisers will be greatly enhanced. But access to these new digital services will be linked to a series of massively open online courses (MOOCs) relating to tax requirements and responsibilities.
Depending on their success at passing relevant modules and client compilance levels, advisers will be entitled to varying levels of access to HMRC’s online portal.
Ledgerman is renowned in Silicon Valley marketing circles as a strategic lightning rod. Her 2012 book ‘Touching the Void: A Brand Adventure’ introduced the concept of “brand shock” and fuelled an ongoing debate about the relevance of brand positioning in high-growth technology environments.
Remuneration for her position as head of values at the tax department is yet to be disclosed, but may attract controversy from taxpayers, politicians, unions and accountants who argue the money would be better spent on frontline initiatives to serve the public.
But Ledgerman was unapologetic. “HMRC is an iconic global brand, recognised for its innovation and entrepreneurial approach to tax administration. I plan to take that recognition to a new level by empowering our team to new heights of excellence,” she said in an exclusive interview with AccountingWEB.co.uk.
“My role will involve positively influencing market perceptions – in terms of our talent, our customers and the marketplace occupied by commercial stakeholders.”
The government’s digital by default strategy has brought the tax department directly into people’s offices and homes, she explained.
“These touchpoints build brand awareness at every node. We’re going to assemble a whole bunch of interactive feedback loops to reinforce positive behaviours, within and beyond the organisational perimeter.”
In the presentation that convinced the HMRC board of commissioners to embark on such a high-profile appointment, Ledgerman set out a five-point plan to refocus the department’s lines of tax into five units - or “pillars” - called Care, Recovery, Focus, Interactive, and Interface.
Other initiatives put forward under Ledgerman’s plans include:
Board members including John Whiting and Ian Barlow put through an executive development and bonding weekend in Wales. “It was invigorating,” the OTS tax policy director told AccountingWEB about his bog-snorkling initiation. “Being up to your neck in muck for three hours gives you a new perspective on the challenge of simplifying the tax system.”
Customer care courses conducted by facilitators from McDonald’s Hamburger University; HMRC staff will gain competency badges to signify their qualification across different disciplines.
- Regular compliance with filing requirements and deadlines will entitle taxpayers to a “loyalty bonus” discount on their liabilities.