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Tax compliance and obedience to authority at home and in the lab: A new experimental approach

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Author Info

  • C. Cadsby

    ()

  • Elizabeth Maynes

    ()

  • Viswanath Trivedi

    ()

Abstract

In most experimental studies of tax evasion, participants are instructed that they may report any amount of income from zero up to the amount they actually earned or received. This amounts to an invitation to gamble. In contrast, real-world tax authorities unambiguously demand compliance. We develop two new settings for conducting tax experiments. Both involve an explicit demand for compliance. Thus, we can determine whether knowing that the experimental authority would regard evasion as wrongful disobedience will influence compliance decisions. We demonstrate that simply telling people that they are required to pay a “participation fee†analogous to a tax produces remarkably high compliance rates and less sensitivity to changes in economic variables than in the earlier experimental literature using invitation-to-gamble language. This suggests that many people pay taxes despite the financial attraction of non-compliance because they are strongly inclined towards obeying authority. Furthermore, we show that giving participants a week to make their reporting decisions at home without an authority figure physically present overcomes the inclination to obey for some people, significantly lowering compliance rates. However, the majority still complies, even after the audit rate falls from 25% to 1%, which would make non-compliance extremely attractive if it were viewed only as a simple matter of risk and expected return. Copyright Economic Science Association 2006

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Experimental Economics.

Volume (Year): 9 (2006)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 343-359

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Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:9:y:2006:i:4:p:343-359

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=102888

Related research

Keywords: Tax; Compliance; Evasion; Experiment; Obedience;

References

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  1. Alm, James & McClelland, Gary H & Schulze, William D, 1999. "Changing the Social Norm of Tax Compliance by Voting," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 141-71.
  2. Alm, James & Jackson, Betty & McKee, Michael, 1992. "Institutional Uncertainty and Taxpayer Compliance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 1018-26, September.
  3. Alm, James & Jackson, Betty & McKee, Michael J., 1992. "Estimating the Determinants of Taxpayer Compliance with Experimental Data," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 45(1), pages 107-14, March.
  4. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1974. "Income tax evasion: A theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 201-202, May.
  5. Torgler, Benno, 2002. " Speaking to Theorists and Searching for Facts: Tax Morale and Tax Compliance in Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(5), pages 657-83, December.
  6. Alm, James & Jackson, Betty R. & McKee, Michael, 1993. "Fiscal exchange, collective decision institutions, and tax compliance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 285-303, December.
  7. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
  8. Alm, James & McKee, Michael J. & Beck, William, 1990. "Amazing Grace: Tax Amnesties and Compliance," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 43(1), pages 23-37, March.
  9. Alm, James & Cronshaw, Mark B & McKee, Michael, 1993. "Tax Compliance with Endogenous Audit Selection Rules," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(1), pages 27-45.
  10. Alm, James & Sanchez, Isabel & de Juan, Ana, 1995. "Economic and Noneconomic Factors in Tax Compliance," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(1), pages 3-18.
  11. Feld, Lars P & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2002. "Tax Evasion and Voting: An Experimental Analysis," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(2), pages 197-222.
  12. Alm, James & McClelland, Gary H. & Schulze, William D., 1992. "Why do people pay taxes?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 21-38, June.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Vossler, Christian A. & McKee, Michael & Jones, Michael, 2011. "Some effects of tax information services reliability and availability on tax reporting behavior," MPRA Paper 38870, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Alm, James & Cherry, Todd L. & Jones, Michael & McKee, Michael, 2012. "Social programs as positive inducements for tax participation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 85-96.
  3. Christoph Bühren & Thorben C. Kundt, 2013. "Worker or Shirker – Who Evades More Taxes? A Real Effort Experiment," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201326, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  4. Johnson, Cathleen & Masclet, David & Montmarquette, Claude, 2010. "The Effect Of Perfect Monitoring Of Matched Income On Sales Tax Compliance: An Experimental Investigation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 63(1), pages 121-48, March.
  5. Cadsby C. Bram & Song Fei & Tapon Francis, 2010. "Are You Paying Your Employees to Cheat? An Experimental Investigation," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-32, April.
  6. McKee, Michael & Siladke, Caleb & Vossler, Christian A., 2011. "Behavioral dynamics of tax compliance under an information services initiative," MPRA Paper 38865, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Stefura Gabriela, 2012. "The Role of Opportunity, Taxpayers’ Perceptions and Demographic Differences in Tax Compliance Analysis," Annals - Economic and Administrative Series -, Faculty of Business and Administration, University of Bucharest, vol. 6(1), pages 163-177, December.
  8. Vivi Alatas & Lisa Cameron & Ananish Chaudhuri & Nisvan Erkal & Lata Gangadharan, 2006. "Subject Pool Effects in a Corruption Experiment: A Comparison of Indonesian Public Servants and Indonesian Students," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 975, The University of Melbourne.
  9. Diego Lubian & Luca Zarri, 2011. "Happiness and Tax Morale: an Empirical Analysis," Working Papers 04/2011, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
  10. Silverman, Dan & Slemrod, Joel & Uler, Neslihan, 2014. "Distinguishing the role of authority “in” and authority “to”," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 32-42.
  11. Durham, Yvonne & Manly, Tracy S. & Ritsema, Christina, 2014. "The effects of income source, context, and income level on tax compliance decisions in a dynamic experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 220-233.
  12. Axel Sonntag & Daniel John Zizzo, 2014. "Institutional Authority and Collusion," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 14-02, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..

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