• The NSW Government’s Office of State Revenue collects fines for a range of government departments, including NSW Police, Roads and Maritime Services, and local councils

  • The money is used to fund essential services such as schools and hospitals

Evidence from around the world shows that subtle and low-cost changes to fine notices are effective in getting people to pay on time. We wanted to see if similar changes would work in NSW.

To do this, we worked with the Office of State Revenue to find ways to increase on time payment rates for a range of fines.

Redesigning fine notices

We reviewed previous work on this issue by other behavioural insights teams and academics and talked to frontline staff to better understand customer behaviour in NSW. A consistent finding was that people were not always sure what their payment notices meant, what action they were required to take, or the consequences of non-payment.

With the Office of State Revenue, we redesigned payment notices. We:

  • created a clear call to action (through a “Pay Now” stamp)

  • simplified the language

  • clearly communicated the consequences of not paying your tax or fine

  • used colour to create a sense of increasing urgency to act, shifting from blue to red as people move further into enforcement action

  • included messages that the majority of people pay their fines and tax on time

We tested the new letter in a series of randomised controlled trials, comparing the effectiveness of the new notices to the original notices.

A big impact 

People who received the new enforcement order notices were 3.1 percentage points (from under 15 per cent to nearly 18 per cent) more likely to pay their fine on time. While this may not seem like a lot, when applied across NSW, it results in over $1 million in revenue and nearly 9,000 fewer people losing their licenses or having their vehicles deregistered each year.

This is just one example of how small changes to fine and tax notices can increase on-time payment. Results from these trials have now been rolled out and are being applied across NSW to a range of fines, taxes and duties, increasing on-time payment and saving citizens millions of avoided late fees and penalties.