American Economic Review Vol. 112, No. 3, March 2022 (pp. 762-97)

This paper investigates the trade-offs between local elites and state agents as tax collectors in low-capacity states. We study a randomized policy experiment assigning neighbourhoods of a large Congolese city to property tax collection by city chiefs or state agents. Chief collection raised tax compliance by 3.2 percentage points, increasing revenue by 44 percent. Chiefs collected more bribes but did not undermine tax morale or trust in government. Results from a hybrid treatment arm in which state agents consulted with chiefs before collection suggest that chief collectors achieved higher compliance by using local information to more efficiently target households with high payment propensities, rather than by being more effective at persuading households to pay conditional on having visited them.


Pablo Balán

Augustin Bergeron

Augustin Bergeron is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California. His research lies at the intersection of development economics, public economics and political economy.

Gabriel Tourek

Gabriel Tourek is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on the development of fiscal and state capacity, and the equity of taxes and transfers in low-income countries.

Jonathan Weigel

Jonathan Weigel is an assistant professor in the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics, and an affiliate of STICERD, CEPR, and EGAP. His research explores the role of state capacity in development with a focus on taxation.