CRA spends $73,128 to research envelope colours

The CRA spent $73,128 on focus group research to find out if changing the colour of their tax notice envelopes would encourage more individuals to open them.

The Canadian Revenue Agency spent $73,128 on focus group research to find out if changing the colour of their tax notice envelopes would encourage more individuals to open them, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

The CRA currently  processes 27 million tax returns every year. Focus groups were conducted in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary by researchers. Participants were asked if they thought it would be useful to change the colour of the envelopes.

Sage Research Corporation said, “Letters sent by the CRA to individuals and businesses typically come in a brown envelope.”

“Participants were asked why a person or business receiving a letter from the CRA might not open it. The primary reason mentioned for not opening the letter was avoidance of suspected stressful content.”

The report, titled Enforcement Letter Qualitative Research also said, “One suggestion was to change to a more ‘friendly’ colour. Another suggestion was to use different colours for different types of communication, such that the colour by itself would convey some information about the content.”

“Some participants voiced objections to these suggestions,” pollsters wrote. “Changing the colour of the envelope would at best work only for a short while, until people learn to associate the new colour with the Canada Revenue Agency. Changing the colour of the envelope will not have an impact because the envelope will still identify the CRA as the sender.”

“Some participants said they did not think any change should be made to the envelope. Any envelope will identify the Canada Revenue Agency as the sender, the brown paper is recognizable, the paper stock looks inexpensive and appears to be made from recycled paper.”

Focus groups were also asked by the CRA, why taxpayers ignored letters from the agency. Common answers were that people were busy, they didn’t have the money to pay what they owed or they didn’t owe any taxes.

“The Agency has found its series of letters and notices sent to non-filers have different rates of compliance and would like to get a better understanding of why,” Sage Research wrote.

Focus group members suggested that demand letters and tax notices be more helpful with their information.

Some of the suggested tax notices were: “The longer you wait to file, the worse your penalties and interest can get. We can help you get back on track” as well as “Be on the right side of the law and avoid paying penalties and interest. When you file your return and pay your taxes on time, you contribute to your community.”