MOOC tests for agents mooted in HMRC reboot

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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

“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.

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01st Apr 2014 07:20

Oh deary me!

“My role will involve positively influencing market perceptions – in terms of our talent, our customers and the marketplace occupied by commercial stakeholders.”


Polishing a turd[***]?

Thanks (3)
By DMGbus
01st Apr 2014 08:38

April fool?

This article has the flavour of being an April fool!


Thanks (6)
01st Apr 2014 09:46

So we have sold

"Agent Strategy" to the yanks. Does her job start before she sorts out North Korea and the Ukraine?

@Mark Lee - looks like they've gone over your head on this one.

Seriously though, I reckon any one of us posters could do a better job than anyone else. The reason is simple. WE know what's wrong with HMRC and WE know how to put it right.

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By norstar
01st Apr 2014 09:48


Surely. Please?

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01st Apr 2014 09:51

Blue Peter Badges

and loyalty bonuses. Give me greenshield stamps any day.

The more I think and read about this the more pathetic it becomes. Bit like listening to Cleggy.

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01st Apr 2014 09:52

Oh Shit[***][***]

and I fell for it hook line and sinker. Well done AW.

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01st Apr 2014 10:41

So hard to tell these days

I too hope that this is an April Fool.

The trouble is, it sounds like the sort of self-deluded nonsense spouted by HMRC mouthpieces on a regular basis of late. If someone at HMRC can describe sending non-compliance notices to fully compliant as not targeting as sharply as they would like, then the above article is eerily plausible.

Equally describing McDonalds as "a great quality product that is loved around the world as a symbol of freedom and self-empowerment" (From the Hamburger University link) could be satire or genuine American marketing guff.

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By puzzel
01st Apr 2014 10:35

Loyalty Bonus

How many do we need to collect for a get out of jail free?

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By Katy D
01st Apr 2014 10:57

McDonald's Hamburger University !

 ....really ?

Thanks (1)
01st Apr 2014 11:01

Hamburger University

Looks like it's been going since 1961:

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By sanone
01st Apr 2014 11:06

April Fool

First thought why am I not surprised, then read a bit more and thought "it was only a matter of time", finally "not even they would....."
But then again they do insist on calling tax payers "customers" and then treating their customers like criminals, liars and cheats. Not even McD's have such a low regard for their customers...


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01st Apr 2014 11:24

You've only

got till 12 midday AW to put me out of my misery.

Thanks (1)
01st Apr 2014 11:34

Looks like

She's also been featured on MyCustomer and Hmrcisshite

Thanks (0)
01st Apr 2014 11:51

Love it!

Happy April Fools day....  Very well thought out and written; hope it goes viral.

Thanks (2)
01st Apr 2014 12:06

HMRC are an "iconic global brand" ! Ha ha April fool!

Thanks (1)
By mgh
01st Apr 2014 13:20

Great joke

April Fool or really happening, it will make no difference.

Thanks (1)
01st Apr 2014 13:36

Johnny No Stars

How will we know how many stars the HMRC person in the call centres have on their badges?  The answer will probably be none anyway!

Thanks (0)
By Kazmc
01st Apr 2014 13:41

Is that really a serious quote?!!

“Being up to your neck in muck for three hours gives you a new perspective on the challenge of simplifying the tax system.”

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01st Apr 2014 15:46

A serious quote?!!
Kazmc PM | Tue, 01/04/2014 - 13:41 | Permalink

“Being up to your neck in muck for three hours gives you a new perspective on the challenge of simplifying the tax system.”


Just to reassure you, it was't a real/serious quote, though like all the best April Fools, now you come to mention it.....

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By Exector
01st Apr 2014 17:32

One of the best since San Serife

Well done Aweb an absolute corker!Hope it goes global- deserves the recognition. Tho scary how many of us in the profession could believe it was happening!

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01st Apr 2014 21:25

Wrong Appointment

Shouldn't HMRC be appointing a guru to sort out their appalling response time to paper 64-8 forms, reallocating incorrectly allocated payments, the majority of telephone calls and almost every aspect of their service instead of some interfering, overpaid executive who has no idea what the professionals in this country have to put up with on a daily basis.  

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01st Apr 2014 22:03



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02nd Apr 2014 09:59

I wonder how many

HMRC operatives believed it too?

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02nd Apr 2014 10:40

Great stuff! Had me fooled until I read that her surname was Ledgerman - seemed too coincidental! Well Done!

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02nd Apr 2014 12:02

The unanswered question

Since the picture would appear to be a stock photo, who is the woman represented as Melissa Ledgerman?

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