Inland Revenue ProblemsInland Revenue Problems


2.4 million people in the UK underpaid tax due to errors in the PAYE tax system.  The cause; computer software problems and failures by tax officials.  The news that 1.4 million of those people owed an average of £1,428 became an instant story.

At 9am the civil servant in charge of tax, Dave Hartnett told BBC radio: "I'm not sure I see a need to apologise”,  that "tax reconciliation" was a routine measure and he saw nothing wrong with those owing the most paying it back within 3 months as it "may actually mean they're earning the most."

Public outrage was immediate and predictable.  By 5pm he was back on the air apologising.  A failure to understand the audience, craft the right solution or plan the right interview strategy. But above all failing to grasp the human impact of the story.