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The Origins of Tax Compliance and Accountable Governance
Last registered on August 01, 2017


Trial Information
General Information
The Origins of Tax Compliance and Accountable Governance
Initial registration date
July 31, 2017
Last updated
August 01, 2017 4:04 PM EDT
Primary Investigator
Harvard University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
What are the barriers to raising revenues in developing countries? Governments struggle to build tax bases—with the goal of reducing reliance on foreign aid and natural resource sales—among citizens who operate predominantly within the formal sector and feel underserved
in access to fundamental public goods like property rights. Recent research has documented the difficulty of encouraging citizens in these contexts to enter the formal sector and regularly pay taxes. Individuals and firms do appear responsive, on the margin, to changes in the likelihood of punishment for non-compliance or the lowering of administrative barriers to formal participation and tax compliance. However, we argue that there are important understudied determinants of formalization and tax compliance, namely the costs of obtaining formal recognition, the method of tax collection, and the amount of tax liability. We plan to test these hypotheses through a field experiment to be undertaken in Kananga, Democratic Republic of Congo, between August 2017 and December 2018 by randomizing (1) subsidized access to formal land titles, (2) direct vs. indirect tax collection, and (3) discounted tax rates.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Balan, Pablo et al. 2017. "The Origins of Tax Compliance and Accountable Governance." AEA RCT Registry. August 01. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2229-1.0.
Former Citation
Balan, Pablo et al. 2017. "The Origins of Tax Compliance and Accountable Governance." AEA RCT Registry. August 01. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2229/history/20056.
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Experimental Details
We propose three interventions to improve formal participation and tax compliance: (1) providing citizens subsidized access to formal property titles; (2) collecting property taxes through local bureaucrats compared to centralized collectors deployed by the provincial ministry; and (3) offering property tax discounts of varying levels to households. The first intervention studies how citizens value formal property titling and whether this impacts tax compliance. The second intervention evaluates whether tax collection is more cost-effective when conducted by actors with local knowledge, compared to centralized collection, which may be more costly but easier to monitor. The third intervention will elicit some of the first estimates the elasticity of tax compliance with respect to the tax rate, a measure of how many citizens comply with tax payment depending on the amount of liability.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The main outcome is tax compliance, i.e., whether an individual has payed the property tax. Other outcomes include 1) rental tax payment, 2) bribe payment to tax collectors, 3) people's view on the local government, 4) views on traditional authorities, 5) civic engagement, 6) access to public goods, 7) investment in land plots, 8) level of confidence in security of property rights, and 9) formalization.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The unit of randomization for these taxation treatments is the polygon. There are 361 polygons in the map of Kananga, which will be randomly assigned to the direct tax collection arm, in which tax ministry collectors will be charged with property tax collection; the indirect tax collection arm, in which local avenue chiefs will be charged with this task; or the control arm, in which citizens are expected to visit a local bank to pay the taxes due on their property. In contrast to these three treatment arms, which vary on the polygon level, the subsidized access to formal land titling and tax rate coupons will be cross-randomized at the household level. We will first administer a baseline survey at selected households, and households will be randomly selected to a land titling intervention group within each polygon. Individual households selected to receive the land titling intervention will receive on-site appraisals and encouragements to obtain formal titles. Treatment assignment for the discounted tax rate intervention will occur during baseline survey visits — randomly selected households will receive tax coupons based on algorithm implemented within the surveying software on tablets used by enumerators. To access the tax rate discounts, selected individuals will need to present their coupon to avoid paying the full rate. Coupons will be individualized using the name and identification code written on the property owner’s state identity card. Failure to present the coupon and/or the accompanying identity card disqualifies households from the discount
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization will be done by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Th city of Kananga has been divided in 361 polygons. Randomization of the taxation arms will be implemented at the polygon level. Randomization of the property titling intervention will be implemented at the individual level within polygons.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
361 polygons.
Sample size: planned number of observations
4,332 households within 361 polygons in the city of Kananga.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The study comprises 361 polygons. The direct taxation arm comprises 120 polygons. The indirect taxation arm comprises 120 polygons. The control arm (neither direct nor indirect taxation) comprises 121 polygons.

Within these categories of polygons, 12 people will be sampled per polygon, so the total sample size will be 4,332.

See page 39 of the PAP for further information.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
See power.xls attached.
IRB Name
Harvard University-Area Committee on the Use of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents