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HMRC content style guide

The HMRC style guide only covers content styles and terms that are specific to HMRC, for example, names of taxes and what we call common tasks.

Check the GOV.UK style guide for style, spelling and grammar conventions across GOV.UK.

Use the same terms, style and spelling and grammar conventions in GOV.UK content and services to make the user’s end-to-end journey consistent.

If there is something missing, you can propose a new entry or suggest a change to an existing one.

A

abbreviations and acronyms

Try to avoid using them. They are not accessible for all users. Only use them when they make it easier for users.

Plurals of acronyms, like ‘MPs’ and ‘GPs’, do not have apostrophes.

Adoption Pay

Initial caps.

apostrophes

Use ‘smart’ (curly) apostrophes rather than 'dumb' (straight) apostrophes.

For GOV.UK content designers, Whitehall automatically does this.

See Smart Quotes for Smart People to find out how to create these in different operating systems.

B

Bereavement Allowance

Initial caps.

business

Use business as generic term and ‘company’ only when referring to a limited company.

C

Capital Bonds

Initial caps.

capitalisation

For general terms, follow the guidance in the GOV.UK style guide. Follow HMRC guidance about the capitalisation of taxes, duties and levies.

If there is no specific entry about capitalising a term, then use sentence case. For example:

  • limited company
  • limited partnership
  • sole trader
  • employment benefits

capitalisation of taxes, duties and levies

Always capitalise initial letters when referring to a specific tax, duty or levy by its full name. For example, Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

Do not capitalise if you’re referring generally to a:

  • tax or taxes
  • duty or duties
  • levy or levies
  • benefit or benefits

For example, if you say ‘Income Tax’ and later refer to it as ‘tax’, do not capitalise ‘tax’. Also, do not capitalise groups of things, like ‘alcohol duties’ or ‘tax credits’.

Child Trust Fund

Initial caps.

Code of Practice

Inital caps ‘C’ and ‘P’, lower case ‘o’.

colons

Only use colons:

  • to introduce lists
  • next to short labels like ‘Telephone:’

complete

See fill in.

compliance checks

Lower case, unless referring to a product or process, for example ‘Compliance Checks learning’ or ‘A New Approach to Compliance Checks’. Try to use informal language like ‘checking your tax return’ if possible.

D

dashes

Dashes separate words into clauses. They are slightly longer than a hyphen and always have spaces either side of them. For example ‘You can claim the actual amount you’ve spent – you’ll need to keep receipts.’

Dashes usually make sentences more complicated. Before using a dash, or pair of dashes, consider using separate sentences.

There are different ways to include a dash in content. You can:

  • use option + - key on an Apple Mac
  • use alt + 0150 on a PC with a number pad
  • copy – into your content

Avoid the HTML – as they are treated differently by different screen readers.

defined benefit

Lower case.

defined contribution

Lower case.

1 hyphen.

due, overdue

Avoid ‘due’ and ‘overdue’ and use plain English instead, for example ‘You need to pay your return by 31 January 2020’ or ‘Your payment is late’.

If you need to use them, it should be when a user has to do something by a specific time or date only. For example, ‘Your payment is due on 31 January 2018’. Do not use them when there is no specific time or date, for example ‘Your £5,000 is now due’.

duty

See capitalisation of taxes, duties and levies.

duty-free

Hyphenated.

duty-paid

Hyphenated when used as an adjective.

duty-suspended

Hyphenated when used as an adjective.

E

Employer Compliance Review

Initial caps.

Employer’s Annual Return

Initial caps, apostrophe before ‘s’.

e-service

Lower case, 1 hyphen.

exclamation marks

Do not use.

Extra-Statutory Concessions

Initial caps, 1 hyphen.

F

fill in

Use ‘fill in’ for the act of doing returns and forms, whether paper or online.

fine

See penalty.

full stops

Only use a full stop to end a complete sentence. Do not use them to end headings, sub-headings or form labels.

Funding Notification form

Upper case ‘F’ and ‘N’, lower case ‘f’ for ‘form’.

G

Gender Recognition Certificate

Initial caps.

Gift Aid

Initial caps.

Gift Aid declaration

Upper case ‘G’ and ‘A’, lower case ‘d’.

Government Gateway

Use ‘Government Gateway user ID’. Never use:

  • Government Gateway ID
  • Government Gateway account
  • HMRC online account

H

HMRC

GOV.UK ​designers should use ‘HMRC’ in specialist (detailed) content. They do not need to:

  • spell out the acronym in full
  • use the acronym markdown

hyphens

Hyphens connect words together. They are shorter than a dash and never have spaces next to them. For example ‘work-related’, ‘self-employed’ and ‘tax-free’.

I

income-bearing asset

1 hyphen.

interest-bearing securities

1 hyphen.

in-year payment

1 hyphen.

J

K

L

levy

See capitalisation of taxes, duties and levies.

Always place punctuation outside of link text unless the link is the entire sentence and it is a question. For example:

M

Making Tax Digital

Initial caps, no acronym.

This is the brand name of digital transformation programmes not users’ tasks. Avoid the term in user guidance but use it in guidance for software vendors and agents who know the brand.

Programmes within Making Tax Digital follow the same rules but have a lower case ‘f’, for example ‘Making Tax Digital for Business’ and ‘Making Tax Digital for VAT’.

Married Couple’s Allowance

Initial caps.

Maternity Pay

Initial caps.

N

National Insurance Number Verification Request

Initial caps.

This is an electronic request sent to HMRC from a customer’s payroll software.

National Insurance Recording System

Initial caps.

National Minimum Wage

Initial caps.

O

P

P11 Deductions Working Sheets

Initial caps.

Paternity Pay

Initial caps.

payable

Avoid ‘payable’, unless referring to cheques. You can say who the cheque should be ‘payable’ to. For example, ‘Make the cheque payable to ‘HM Revenue and Customs’, not ‘This amount is payable in monthly instalments’.

PAYE (Pay As You Earn)

Initial caps.

Payroll Accreditation process

Upper case ‘P’ and ‘A’, lower case ‘p’ for ‘process’.

Payroll Giving

Initial caps.

penalty

Use ‘penalty’ for the sake of consistency. All fines are penalties but not all penalties are fines.

Personal Allowance

Initial caps.

permanent interest-bearing shares

Lower case, 1 hyphen.

Private Residence Relief

Initial caps.

Q

quotation marks

Use ‘smart’ (curly) quotes rather than 'dumb' (straight) quotes.

For GOV.UK content designers, Whitehall automatically does this.

See Smart Quotes for Smart People to find out how to create these in different operating systems.

R

re-acquire, re-acquisition

Hyphenated.

Research and Development (R&D) tax relief

Upper case ‘R’ and ‘D’, lower case ‘a’, ‘t’ and ‘r’. Use ampersand in acronym.

Research and Development (R&D) tax credits

Upper case ‘R’ and ‘D’, lower case ‘a’, ‘t’ and ‘c’. Use ampersand in acronym.

S

schemes

Follow the GOV.UK style guide on capitalising specific, named government schemes known to people outside government.

Some government schemes are styled in a specific way. These are:

  • Contracted-out Salary Related Scheme – upper case ‘C’, ‘S’, ‘R’ and ‘S’, lower case ‘o’, 1 hyphen
  • Non-resident Landlord Scheme – upper case ‘N’, ‘L’ and ‘S’, lower case ‘r’, 1 hyphen
  • Rent-a-Room – upper case ‘R’ and ‘R’, lower case ‘a’, 2 hyphens
  • Rent-a-Room for traders – Upper case ‘R’ and ‘R’, lower case ‘a’, ‘f’ and ‘t’, 2 hyphens
  • Rent-a-Room Scheme – upper case ‘R’, ‘R’ and ‘S’, lower case ‘a’, 2 hyphens
  • Repayment of Teachers’ Loans scheme – upper case ‘R’, ‘T’ and ‘L’, lower case ‘o’ and ‘s’
  • Save As You Earn schemes (SAYE) – upper case ‘S’, ‘A’, ‘Y’ and ‘E’, lower case ‘s’ for schemes

Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction

Initial caps, with apostrophe.

send, file or submit

Regular users running their own business seem to prefer ‘file’ and ‘submit’, but individuals doing Self Assessment prefer ‘send’.

User research shows that ‘submit VAT return’ is more popular than ‘send VAT return’, but ‘send tax return’ is more popular than ‘submit tax return’.

You should consider the existing content, what the business areas use in external communications and any user research findings.

set off

Hyphenated when used as a noun. For example, ‘a subsequent agreement between the parties to set-off a claim’. Not hyphenated when used as a verb. For example, ‘losses from earlier years set off’.

Short Tax Return

Initial caps.

small earnings exception

Lower case.

standard-rated

Hyphenated, but no hyphen in standard rate or standard rating.

student loan

Lower case unless you are referring to the Student Loans Company.

T

take-home pay

1 hyphen.

tax

See capitalisation of taxes, duties and levies.

tax-free and tax free

Hyphenated when it is before a noun, for example ‘tax-free amount’. Not hyphenated when it appears after a noun, for example ‘the amount is tax free’.

Trust Unique Taxpayer Reference

Initial caps.

U

Unique Taxpayer Reference

Initial caps. Not ‘Unique Taxpayer Reference number’ or ‘Unique Taxpayer Reference Number’.

V

W

war widow’s and dependant’s pension

Lower case, with apostrophes before each ‘s’.

we

You can use ‘we’ to describe HMRC in content, as long as it is clear to the user who ‘we’ are. For example, ‘HM Revenue and Customs is the UK tax authority. We collect the money that pays for the UK’s public services and help families and individuals with targeted financial support.’

Widow’s Pension or Bereavement Allowance

Initial caps, with an apostrophe before the ‘s’ in ‘Widow’s’.

X

Y

Z

zero-rated

Hyphenated, but no hyphen in ‘zero rate’ or ‘zero rating’.