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The distinct role of group-central and group-peripheral norms in taxpaying behaviour


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  • Ashby, Julie S.
  • Haslam, S. Alexander
  • Webley, Paul
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    In recent years, a social identity approach has been used to help understand why people do or do not pay tax [see Taylor, 2003; Wenzel, M., 2002. The impact of outcome orientation and justice concerns on tax compliance: the role of taxpayers' identity. Journal of Applied Psychology 87, 629-645; Wenzel, M., 2004. An analysis of norm processes in tax compliance. Journal of Economic Psychology 25, 213-228; Wenzel, M., 2005. Misperception of social norms about tax compliance: from theory to intervention. Journal of Economic Psychology 26, 862-883; Wenzel, M., 2007. The multiplicity of taxpayer identities and their implications for tax ethics. Law & Policy 29, 31-50]. This research, which has focused almost exclusively on national identity, indicates that the more people identify with a group, the more likely they are to adhere to its tax norms and values. However, conformity to group norms may be more nuanced than this, and depend on (a) the meaning or content of the identity in question [e.g., Turner, J.C., 1999. Some current themes in research on social identity and self-categorization theories. In: Ellemers, N., Spears, R., Doojse, B. (Eds.), Social Identity: Context, Commitment, Content. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 6-34] and (b) whether the norms and values are central or peripheral to the content of that identity. In line with this idea, two studies explored whether the concept and act of taxpaying are more central to what it means to be a member of one's nation than of one's occupational group. Both studies confirm this expectation. Importantly, the findings also suggest that although occupational groups have different norms and values in relation to pre-tax behaviours (e.g., how to deal with extra income), these too can be peripheral to what it means to a group member. If norms are peripheral to identity content, conformity to such norms may be independent of group identification.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics).

    Volume (Year): 38 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 2 (March)
    Pages: 230-237

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:38:y:2009:i:2:p:230-237

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    Keywords: Norms Norm-centrality Social identity Self-categorization Taxpaying Occupational group;


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    1. repec:att:wimass:9610 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
    3. Wenzel, Michael, 2004. "An analysis of norm processes in tax compliance," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 213-228, April.
    4. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
    5. Wenzel, Michael, 2005. "Misperceptions of social norms about tax compliance: From theory to intervention," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 862-883, December.
    6. Myles, Gareth D. & Naylor, Robin A., 1996. "A model of tax evasion with group conformity and social customs," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 49-66, April.
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    Cited by:
    1. Pickhardt, Michael & Prinz, Aloys, 2014. "Behavioral dynamics of tax evasion – A survey," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 1-19.
    2. Forest, Adam & Kirchler, Erich, 2010. "Targeting occupations with varying reputations to increase tax revenue," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 400-406, June.
    3. Balestrino, Alessandro, 2010. "Tax avoidance and the endogenous formation of social norms," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(5), pages 601-609, October.
    4. Alessandro Balestrino, . "Tax Avoidance, Endogenous Social Norms, and the Comparison Income Effect," EPRU Working Paper Series 05-15, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics, revised Dec 2005.


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