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Clear writing helps Belgium collect €18m in unpaid tax

23:42 02/11/2016

Belgian tax officials have a new tactic to encourage late payers to settle their bills - by writing to them in a clearer way.

The finance ministry has called on an expert in behavioural economics, Jan Emmanuel De Neve, to improve the letters it sends out chasing unpaid tax.

Instead of lengthy correspondence clogged with references to specific clauses in the Belgian tax code, the new letter is half as long (one page) and to the point.

"Sir/Madam" is replaced by the taxpayer's actual name. The amount due is shown at the top of the letter. And the new wording explains in clear language where tax revenue is spent, and the sanctions for non-payment.

According to Le Soir and De Standaard, within days of the improved letters going out, recipients settled €18m of unpaid bills - a 17% increase in the normal response rate.