The Origins of Tax Compliance and Government Accountability

With Pablo Balan, Augustin Bergeron, and Gabriel Tourek.

In this large ongoing study, neighborhoods are randomly assigned to receive central tax collectors, as in the past campaign, or they are assigned to have local government brokers (avenue chiefs) responsible for property tax collection. Although influential theories claim that indirect rule undermines the accountability of local chiefs, little is known about whether tax-farming or decentralization initiatives today might have this same unintended consequence. Moreover, in a setting of low state capacity, empowering local brokers might improve the efficiency and equity of tax collection relative to centralized collection strategies. Finally, the implications of these two tax collection models on the political engagement of citizens is another empirical question. Will citizens withdraw from the central state if local brokers not tax ministry agents collect taxes? This project, funded by the Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) Metaketa II Taxation initiative, will bring experimental evidence to bear on these issues. Second, we randomly encourage individuals in Kananga to obtain formal property titles. Titles confer many benefits but are expensive and administratively difficult for citizens to acquire, so current rates of ownership are below 20%. Working with the provincial government, we have streamlined the process and negotiated price reductions for a land registration campaign that began in August 2017. We will measure how such formalization of property title impacts tax compliance and other facets of citizens' engagement with the state. In sum, this project explores how government efforts to expand taxation and encourage land registration affect how individuals perceive the role of the state and their efforts to hold it accountable.

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