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Maxwell X Lab

Project Report

City of Syracuse Taxes

November 2019

Project Description

  • Partners: City of Syracuse
  • Intervention: Modified notices, and modified notices plus envelope handwriting
  • Method: RCT
  • Outcomes: Increased payments, increased revenue for the City

Project Report

The Maxwell X Lab partnered with the City of Syracuse to test whether courtesy notices for overdue property tax bills would impact payments. The notices simplified typical communication: the letters made salient payment options, future penalties and interest, and how the payments are used.

In May 2018, property owners who owed delinquent taxes (prior to 2017-18) or who were late on their 2017-18 tax bill were randomly assigned to receive the courtesy notice, the courtesy notice with a personalized handwritten note on the outside of the envelope, or no additional mailings.

We ran two separate mailings (trials) for delinquent bills and 2017-18 bills. For the delinquent bills trial, property owners were 62 percent more likely to make a payment and paid 62 percent more of their bill, on average. For the 2017-2018 bills trials, property owners who received the courtesy notice and handwritten note on the envelope were 11 percent more likely to pay and paid 11 percent more of their bill, on average.

In dollar terms, the notice and envelope paid on average $82 (50%) more than the control ($164). Between both trials, the courtesy notices brought in at least an additional $1.47 million to the City of Syracuse.

Maxwell X Lab
426 Eggers Hall