Building Support for Taxation in Developing Countries: Experimental Evidence from Mexico

Authors: Gustavo A. Flores-Macías
Publisher: ICTD
Date: March 2016


ICTD Working Paper 51

In spite of the importance of taxation for political and economic development, we know relatively little about the conditions under which citizens might not exact a political cost on leaders for adopting a particular tax. Drawing on insights from the literature on institutional design, this article examines how certain features of taxes – such as allowing for civil society oversight, sunset provisions that make the duration of taxes finite, and earmark mechanisms that direct tax revenue for a specific purpose – affect political support behind them. It also evaluates the role of three important aspects of the fiscal exchange, namely trust in government, perceptions of the public good, and level of income. Based on an original survey experiment focusing on the provision of public safety in Mexico, I find that these design features increase political support for taxation, especially among those with low trust in government, perceptions of high quality of the public good, and low income. These findings have important implications for Mexico, as well as a number of other countries that have both low levels of extraction and increased public spending imperatives.