The Kentucky Revenue Cabinet is to administer the state's tax laws uniformly, equitably and efficiently to maximize state revenues to support public services; and to ensure that voluntary compliance within the taxing structures is achieved without being an impediment of economic growth. In order to secure funds for the state budget, it was decided that a tax amnesty program would provide an opportunity for corporations and individuals to pay their debts efficiently, which avoids lengthy litigation for both parties. The 2002 program not only waives all penalties and fees, but also all of the interest. This Amnesty Program (House Bill 614) was enacted during the 2002 session of the General Assembly and was signed into law by the governor earlier this year. Tax Amnesty includes all state taxes directly administered by the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet. Property taxes levied on real estate, motor vehicles and motor boats payable to local officials are not included. The program applies to back taxes incurred on or after Dec. 1, 1987 and prior to Dec. 1, 2001. Virtually all taxpayers are eligible to participate in the program. "Tax Amnesty will generate much needed revenues for the state during these tough economic times," Secretary of the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet Dana Mayton said. "In addition to increasing funds for the Commonwealth, Amnesty gives taxpayers who owe back taxes an opportunity for a fresh start."
Many states have used a tax amnesty period to garner back taxes, however previous programs in other states have been weak in using a full marketing mix in getting the word out. It was determined by the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet that public relations and event-oriented publicity would be extremely useful to augment a TV and radio media buy. ASPectx was hired by Paul Schultz Advertising, the prime contractor, to design a public relations approach that would include event participation. ASPectx had less than three weeks to complete all planning before execution of the plan needed to occur.
Scope of Work
Public relations campaigns often mix a number of different approaches to reach target audiences. Public Relations can:
*Brand a concept
*Bring an urgent call to action
*Engage target audiences
*Inform, educate and entertain to communicate a primary message
Successful tax amnesty programs in other states in the last decade have engaged the general public through a number of strategies that have included humor, threats, edutainment, and just-the-facts. Programs that were consistent and properly promoted during the window of opportunity have largely brought impressive results. Campaigns aimed at the general public traditionally have pulled corporate dollars as well as citizen filings. It was therefore understood that the public relations program for Tax Amnesty in Kentucky should cover all bases possible without diluting the seriousness of the message.
Primary Public Relations approaches integrated with other marketing tactics and included:
Pre-publicity including a comprehensive press kit in the 3 primary and 7 secondary markets selected by the client
1. Launch event
2. Speakers' bureau opportunities particularly through local Rotary Clubs
3. Emarketing of PR to chamber groups and associations tied to a Web Strategy
4. Direct mail or emarketing of select campaign PR to appropriate state agencies and related groups
5. State Fair event(s)
6. Consistent factual PR for the term of the campaign to support marketing and advertising concepts
7. Media coverage in the final two weeks supported by daily media calls on filings and related campaign facts
8. Wrap up event with appearances by key state officials
ASPectx determined that public relations efforts should follow the general themes outlined for advertising, promotions, direct mail, and other marketing literature. This means that Tax Amnesty Man used in advertising will be seen around the primary markets at all events, travel the state and be seen in the key cities, and generally engage the general public through games, giveaways, and other interactions.
By humanizing the tax amnesty concept, the general public related to its urgency and immediate call to action.
We believe the following elements were critical to the success of this PR effort:
*Factual PR-Emphasis on the Type of Taxes Eligible and How to Move Forward
*Giveaways of Tax Amnesty Kits with CDs of printable forms, or actual forms
*Widespread Dissemination of fact brochures at selected events that answered Frequently Asked Questions
* Involvement with local TV and radio media for ongoing, consistent daily coverage before, during and after launch and in the final two weeks
*Promulgation of Contact Approaches for Taxpayers-phone, web chat, recorded messages, state agency locations for forms, etc÷.
Under this PR program, primary events were included in the three principal markets of Louisville, Northern Kentucky, and Frankfort/Lexington. The three primary events were an official Tax Amnesty Launch; State Fair activities; and a closing press briefing with reports from state officials.
Secondary events included: (a) public speaking at regional Rotary Clubs via a speakers' bureau; (b) announcement at Chamber events in the primary markets where possible; and (c) briefings for CPAs and attorneys.
For launch, a simulcast press conference from key state markets was used, followed by a Tax Amnesty Rally in Louisville which garnered all TV media in the market downtown.
*Personalized calls to media in the key markets captured TV and radio interviews. ASPectx was able to craft story angles based on local media requests and suggestions based on knowledge of the ongoing campaign.
*ASPectx was able to help the state see the value of regionalizing its statistics to appeal to small dailies and weeklies out in the state for several stories in the course of the campaign.
*Use of radio remotes, audio news releases and spontaneous radio cut-ins at existing events, such as Covington's Oktoberfest, allowed for the call to action to appear immediate to the general public.
*Giveaways with contact information, particularly fans at stadium football games, worked to raise community awareness in key markets of Louisville and Lexington.
*All state media was contacted at some point in the course of the campaign and the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet made available their general counsel for interviews. Where needed, ASPectx gave interviews directly.
* ASPectx rapidly put together a schedule of events for Amnesty appearances of its character and its materials for giveaways.
*Public speaking was used effectively to get the word out.
At the time of this case study, Kentucky was well ahead of its projections for collections, already achieving $10 million shortly after the halfway point. Generally the monies from a tax amnesty program come in the last week of the campaign. The Kentucky Revenue Cabinet credited the ASPectx PR team for its strong PR outreach.
For a reference, please contact Alex Rose, General Counsel of the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet at 502-564-9544.