Taxman's ad 'offensive' to self-employed

Small business supporters have savaged the taxman’s latest advert in the national press, claiming it unfairly depicts all self-employed people as tax dodgers.

The offending ad, placed in tabloids by HM Revenue & Customs, shows a plumber hiding under a kitchen sink, with the tagline: “With your help, we’ll make sure self employed people who don’t pay their tax have nowhere to hide.”

Accompanying the caption is a hotline for members of the public to report self-employed people, not just plumbers, who might be evading tax.

The Federation of Small Businesses has condemned the campaign, branding the ad “offensive” and HMRC’s attitude ‘disappointing.’

Simon Sweetman, its tax spokesman, explained: “We are disappointed that a campaign that could have gained widespread support has instead resorted to a clumsy advert that tars all of the UK’s 2.72 million self-employed people with the same brush.

“The vast majority of self-employed people abide by the law and pay their taxes,” he said, adding that the Revenue’s message is “harmful” and misleading.”

The Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors has reportedly joined the outcry, telling The Daily Telegraph that the taxman has been “unfair” in its depiction of self-employed people.

Moreover, the Association added that the ad uses an “unrepresentative stereotype of a plumber” to depict a self-employed person ducking their tax commitments.

While both groups are said to support a clamping down on tax evaders, HMRC is charged with giving the false impression that all self-employed Brits are tax dodgers.

“We find it particularly offensive that the implication in the advert is that all self-employed people do not pay their tax,” the FSB said in a statement.

“We have therefore complained to the Advertising Standards Authority formally about this advertisement and we hope that HMRC will withdraw the advert and rethink their campaign.”

Readers are reminded they are free to complain to the ASA, via post or online, if you “think there is something wrong with an advertisement you have seen or heard.”


9th January 2006

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