I investigate the relationship between perception of public institutions and tax compliance using a large tax compliance laboratory experiment conducted in Italy and the United States. In the first test, I conduct a simple tax compliance game to uncover that given the exact same decisions, contributions to the public good do not differ between Italy and the United States. Second, I ask participants to pay taxes to their national government, pension fund and fire department. In these rounds, behaviours diverge with Italian participants complying significantly less than Americans. Theoretically, I provide evidence demonstrating that how individuals perceive their institutions is a crucial component of the tax compliance decision. Methodologically, I provide a unique experiment, which can help us to better explain crosscountry variation in tax compliance, by asking subjects to make country-specific tax decisions.