We randomly assign the city’s neighborhoods to central tax collection, conducted by agents of the provincial tax ministry, or local tax collection, conducted by local city chiefs. We also implement two hybrid collection interventions and cross-randomized information treatments to elicit the mechanisms through which central and local tax collection shape citizen compliance.
T1. Central tax collection (C): Agents of the provincial tax ministry (DGRKOC) complete all steps of the property tax campaign (census and tax collection). Collectors work in teams of two and each team is assigned to two neighborhoods per month. Every month collectors are re-randomized in teams of two.
T2. Local tax collection (L): Local chiefs complete the steps of the campaign. These chiefs act as intermediaries between citizens and the government and can be thought of as the bottom link in the chain of the city-level government bureaucracy. They are typically in charge of: (1) organizing and enforcing weekly public good provision (Salongo), (2) communicating citizens’ grievances to government authorities, and (3) mediating in local disputes. This position is appointed for life to an individual who already lives in the neighborhood. Often, it is given to an individual who is well-known in the neighborhood. To make treatments comparable, each chief is asked to pick an assistant, so each neighborhood assigned to local taxation is visited by a team of two.
T3. Central X Local (CXL): Central and local collectors complete all steps of the campaign together. Central collectors are re-randomized to selected chiefs each month.
T4. Central Plus Local Information (CLI): This arm is identical to the central tax collection treatment, except that, after completing the census, the central collectors meet with the avenue chief in the neighborhood to transfer knowledge about the capacity and willingness to pay of all individuals in that neighborhood.
T5. Control: In a small number of neighborhoods, individuals are supposed to pay themselves at the tax ministry (the old system up to 2016). Two agents from the tax ministry visit each household in these neighborhoods, conducting a census that is identical to that administered in treatment neighborhoods except that individuals are informed they should pay at the tax ministry rather than pay collectors themselves.
In addition, we randomize the following information interventions at the individual level. We implement two deterrence messages, two fiscal exchange (public goods) messages, one trust message, and one control message:
I1. Central deterrence. The central version says that refusal to pay the property tax entails the possibility of audit and investigation by the provincial tax ministry.
I2. Local deterrence. The local version of the deterrence message says that refusal to pay the property tax entails the possibility of audit and investigation by the neighborhood chief (chef de quartier). Note that this is a higher-rank chief relative to those who are collecting taxes in Local neighborhoods.
I3. Central public goods. The central version of the flyer says that the provincial government will be able to improve infrastructure in the city of Kananga only if citizens pay the property tax.
I4. Local public goods. The local version of the flyer is exactly the same, except that it mentions each citizens’ locality instead of Kananga.
I5. Trust. The trust message reminds citizens that paying the property tax is a way of showing that they trust the state and its agents.
I6. Control. The final flyer is the control. It simply says: “It is important to pay the property tax.”