Happy Taxpayer

I’m a big fan of taxes.

I mean, the actual paying them over bit is not so great. The bills always seem to arrive at the most inopportune moment, just when the cash flow chart is feeling most challenged. And they never quite add up to what I expected or planned for.

But overall, I’m a big fan. Without them there would be no decent way to live: no healthcare, no street lighting, no bin collection. Of course at the same time there would be no army and no nuclear weapons which I guess some might see as a good thing. But overall, I like the whole concept of taxes and, usually, pay mine happily.

But I accept I am unusual. Many, maybe even most, resent paying taxes. They always concentrate on the things that don’t work, or they don’t support. Or they think that others should pay more so that they can pay less. We all draw the poverty line just above ourselves don’t we?

So as a comms professional, how can I help move this reluctance to pay into a rejoicing to partake? How can we make curmudgeonly payers into champions of the fiscal system?

The Finns have a good idea (how many times have you heard that sentence?) The Happy Taxpayer website (happytaxpayer.com) highlights all the excellent things tax pays for. So when I dived into it there were videos about school meals, police work, vaccinations and a film about sleeping babies (it was a mindfulness thing I think – I dozed off).

And the result? Well in a recent survey of Finns, the majority were happy to pay taxes. In fact, 96% agreed that paying taxes was an important thing to do.

The lesson for me seems to be that if we can creatively show what the outcome of an action is, then people will support the action. Whether it is paying taxes, dieting, supporting your neighbours, turning down the heating or eating less meat. Whatever it is, we are more likely to do it if we can visualise the positive outcome, and see in a tangible way what we have achieved.

The move from output to outcome has been written about a lot on management science I’m sure. For me it is simpler – don’t tell people to do something, tell them what they can help achieve if they take a specific action. We all want to be a part of success. And who doesn’t love a sleeping baby.

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