Not so taxing: IRD pushes customers online with the help of fixed stares, empty smiles and spandex

The Inland Revenue Department isn’t renowned for its sense of whimsy. But, with the help of Clemenger BBDO, it’s gone full cheese for a new campaign called ‘Work it Out’, which has drawn on ’80s workout videos to show everyone how easy it is to get a tax refund by heading online (viewer discretion advised). 

The unnerving fixed stares, empty smiles, token male, pastel colours and high cut spandex leotards seen in historical workout videos live on in the new TVC, which includes three fitness fanatics showing the public how to do “The tax refund workout” online in three simple steps via MyIR (it doesn’t quite match the enthusiasm of the amazing aerobics clip below, however).

The steps include: “Step 1: April – Get ready. But woah now, take a rest. We’re busy collecting your employment details. You can register for myIR if you haven’t already so you’re ready for the next step. Step 2: Mid-May – Calculate. Keep it up! Now you can calculate how much your tax refund could be and request your personal tax summary (PTS) and Step 3: Mid-June – Collect. You’ve made it, awesome work. Confirm your PTS so you can receive your refund within five working days.”

Inland Revenue group manager of customer services Eleanor Young said in a release the next few months are Inland Revenue’s busiest period, with customers seeking assistance with filing and payment requirements, as well as information such as whether they are due for a tax refund or qualify for Working for Families tax credits.

“This makes for a busy time on our phones, especially as some of our customers need help with complex queries,” she says. “So we’re encouraging our customers to use our online services when they can.”

And she says more than 1.8 million customers are already registered for a myIR online account.

“It means they don’t have to wait on the phone to check the balance of their IRD accounts, track their tax refund, retrieve their IRD number, check their student loan balance, or submit a GST return.”

Inland Revenue group manager of marketing and communications Andrew Stott said the department’s tax refund workout video, which was made by Stem Creative, was achieving the desired results (it’s racked up over 16,000 views on YouTube).* 

The IRD is also running print and online ads pointing people in the direction of the website. These ads are part of a different campaign, targeted at GST business filers and point to a different campaign page. In contrast, the Tax Refund Workout campaign is a highly targeted online-only campaign, which has been developed for a younger ‘individual customer’ demographic (18-34) who are more likely to be due a tax refund.  

“New Zealanders are working it out. The number of phone calls to us this month is 22,000 lower than forecast. Also, 15 percent more people have registered for a myIR online account compared to this time last year and the video has clocked 8,000 views,” he says. “We’re asking customers to ‘work out’ and take simple ‘three steps’ to get themselves a myIR online account and check if they are due a refund.”

The IRD, like the government in general and other governments around the world, is trying to make it easier for the public to interact with them digitally, just as they can with other businesses. As IRD’s deputy commissioner, service delivery, Arlene White says in this clip, going digital is all about the customer, something deputy commissioner at the Inland Revenue Department in the information, intelligence and communications department, ​ANZ’s former head of marketing and 2012 Marketer of the Year Mike Cunnington also firmly believes in (after leading the successful merger of ANZ and National Bank, he went on to work for the IRD on this major IT project, which he called similarly transformative to the merger).

But the world is also going mobile so it’s catering to that trend with a mobile app from Sush Mobile called ‘myIR mobile’, which was developed with small businesses in mind to streamline how a business files a tax return and is available on iOS (it’s looking at an Android version later in the year). 

Inland Revenue sought ideas for the app through a public crowdfunding competition and Sush’s ‘myIR mobile’ is the result. According to a release: “The purpose of the move to mobile is to streamline the collections process by reducing confusion, establishing new processes to help and avoid errors, and simplify user interactions for a smoother process for more than 420,000 small business customers.”

“As technology changes the way companies carry out their day-to-day business, we must keep up with and meet their needs,” says Inland Revenue strategy manager of integrated channels Brett Calton. “Having listened to our customers, myIR mobile enables small business owners to interact with us simply and conveniently, 24 hours a day to deal with their GST information at the touch of a button.”

And for true tax fans, here’s a quality piece of IRD content from the early ’90s. 

*Correction: This article previously misstated that the tax refund video had been watched 6,000 times; in fact, the video racked up an initial 10,000 views before being updated with the newer version that tallied an additional 6,000 videos. 

Credits for the Tax Refund Workout:

Creative Director: Brett Hoskin
Agency Producer: Jen Gasson
Creative: Frances Cooke & Millie Malcolm 
Senior Account Manager: Katy Baker
Media: OMD
Production: Stem Creative

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