Encouraging the timely payment of council tax.
Late and non-payment of council tax directly reduces the resources available to councils at a time when budgets are already stretched. Council tax arrears in the UK have risen 12% over the last five years, and the total value outstanding has reached £2.8 billion; reclaiming even a small fraction of this can be extremely valuable. We worked with the London Boroughs of Enfield and Haringey to redesign and improve their council tax payment communications.
A soft-touch approach to tax collection
We redesigned the council’s repayment reminder letters to include a set of behavioural nudges, aiming to increase repayment and in doing so reduce the number of residents exposed to formal collections processes. A number of different concepts were trialed, including omission/commission framing and social norms messaging.
Better payment behaviour with less enforcement
We tested our designs in two randomised controlled trials across a total of 30,500 households. In both cases, we generated significant increases in payment compliance, with conservative projections showing that our interventions would generate £600,000 in additional revenue per year for Enfield alone. We were also able to show which council tax bands were most receptive to our messaging, allowing us to identify ways of moving away from a ‘one-size fits all’ messaging regime to one that acknowledges the heterogeneity of the population.
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