David Halpern: ‘HMRC should overclaim taxes’

HMRC should introduce a deliberate error into the taxation system so that it overclaims taxes and has to repay them at the end of the year, Dr David Halpern, the head of the government’s Behavioural Insights Team, has suggested.

By Joshua.Chambers

11 Jul 2012

Speaking at Civil Service Live last week, Halpern said that “it would be better for us to modestly overclaim tax,” because when HMRC underclaims, people become irritated and tempted to cheat.

He added that “when people get tax back from HMRC, they feel great. In the US, people love it, and they spend the money differently too. So we’re trying to persuade you guys [HMRC] that’s what you should do. Make sure you have a certain amount of outcome which means you have to give people their money back.”

However, Halpern told the conference that his unit has yet to persuade HMRC to deliberately overclaim taxes. An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC’s role is to collect the tax due under the law, and we do not seek to collect more tax than is due from our customers in any way. The vast majority of people pay the correct tax and where they do overpay, we seek to refund this to our customers as soon as possible after the tax year ends.”

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