Tax Compliance in Rwanda: Evidence from a Message Field Experiment

Authors: Giulia Mascagni & Christopher Nell
Publisher: Economic Development and Cultural Change
Date: January 2021

Abstract:

Volume 69 Number 2

In early 2016 the Rwanda Revenue Authority sent messages to 9,000 taxpayers, aimed to encourage compliance. Each taxpayer was randomly allocated to a treatment group, or to a control group that received no message. Treatment messages varied in terms of content (deterrence, fiscal exchange, reminder) and delivery method (letter, email, SMS).

Our RCT evaluates the impact of this intervention on compliance behaviour. We find that friendly approaches, and especially a simple reminder of deadlines, are more effective than deterrence. We also provide suggestive evidence that deterrence messages produce a backfiring effect amongst higher-income taxpayers, while they have the expected effect for the rest.