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Tax Complexity: Problem or Opportunity?

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  • Kate Krause

    (University of New Mexico)

Abstract

When laws are complex or ambiguous, compliance and enforcement suffer. In the United States, the federal income tax is a familiar example of this. Often, neither the taxpayer nor the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can perfectly determine a taxpayer's true tax liability. Uncertainty, ignorance, and burdensome documentation requirements deter some taxpayers from taking advantage of legitimate deductions and credits, whereas others find opportunities for creative tax avoidance in ambiguous provisions. Complexity undermines the IRS's ability to distinguish among intentional evasion, honest misinterpretation of the tax code, and legitimate tax avoidance. This model shows that the IRS cannot always profitably exploit complexity.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by in its journal Public Finance Review.

Volume (Year): 28 (2000)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
Pages: 395-414

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Handle: RePEc:sae:pubfin:v:28:y:2000:i:5:p:395-414

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Cited by:
  1. Torgler, Benno & Demir, Ihsan C. & Macintyre, Alison & Schaffner, Markus, 2008. "Causes and Consequences of Tax Morale: An Empirical Investigation," Economic Analysis and Policy (EAP), Queensland University of Technology (QUT), School of Economics and Finance, vol. 38(2), pages 313-339, September.
  2. Eichfelder, Sebastian & Kegels, Chantal, 2014. "Compliance costs caused by agency action? Empirical evidence and implications for tax compliance," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 200-219.
  3. James Alm & Todd Cherry & Michael Jones & Michael McKee, 2011. "Taxpayer Information Assistance Services and Tax Compliance Behavior," Working Papers 1101, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  4. Barbaro, Salvatore & Suedekum, Jens, 2006. "Reforming a complicated income tax system: The political economy perspective," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 41-59, March.
  5. Christian A. Vossler & Michael McKee, 2013. "Efficient tax reporting: The effects of taxpayer information services," Working Papers 13-24, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.

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