The Carrot and the Stick: Evidence on Voluntary Tax Compliance from a Pilot Field Experiment in Rwanda
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Large-scale field experiments on tax compliance have been a thriving field of research in many regions of the world. However, Africa is still lagging behind, as administrative data from anonymised returns is available only in a handful of countries. To the best of our knowledge, there is as yet no published evidence of a tax field experiment from Africa. This paper reports the results of a pilot experiment in Rwanda that served as a stepping stone for a larger experimental study on tax compliance. In this pilot, we test the process of messaging taxpayers to encourage them to comply voluntarily, by providing information on sanctions. The results indicate that communication strategies that aim to inform taxpayers may be effective in increasing tax compliance. However, these results are only indicative. They will be complemented by further evidence from the larger field experiment, where we test different types of messages and delivery methods. Nonetheless, this paper provides some initial insight into the use of tax experiments in Africa, both in terms of initial evidence and lessons learned for future efforts in this field.