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Tax Morale and Optimal Taxation

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  • Werner Güth
  • Rupert Sausgruber

Abstract

We study experimentally how taxpayers choose between two tax regimes to fund a public good. The first-best tax regime imposes a general, distortion-free income tax. However, this tax cannot be enforced. The second-best alternative supplements the income tax by a specific commodity tax. This tax cannot be evaded but distorts optimal consumption choices, instead. The result is that a large majority of subjects prefer the general income tax regime. The bulk of votes is consistent with actual payoffs. We isolate tax morale as cause for payoffs above theoretical predictions.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1284.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1284

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Keywords: optimal taxation; tax evasion; voting; experiments;

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  1. Jean-Robert Tyran & Rupert Sausgruber, 2002. "A Little Fairness may Induce a Lot of Redistribution in Democracy," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2002 2002-30, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  2. Wolfram F. Richter & Robin Boadway, 2001. "Trading Off Tax Distortion and Tax Evasion," CESifo Working Paper Series 505, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Creedy, J., 1997. "Measuring Welfare Changes and the Excess Burden of Taxation," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 587, The University of Melbourne.
  4. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869, August.
  5. Saez, Emmanuel, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 205-29, January.
  6. Don Fullerton & Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2001. "Tax Incidence," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0106, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    • Fullerton, Don & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 2002. "Tax incidence," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 26, pages 1787-1872 Elsevier.
  7. Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst, 2002. "Psychological Foundations of Incentives," CEPR Discussion Papers 3185, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
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  11. Krishna, Aradhna & Slemrod, Joel, 2003. "Behavioral Public Finance: Tax Design As Price Presentation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 189-203, March.
  12. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1993. "Tax evasion and optimal commodity taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 261-275, February.
  13. Timothy Besley & Ian Preston & Michael Ridge, 1993. "Fiscal Anarchy in the U.K.: Modelling Poll Tax Noncompliance," NBER Working Papers 4498, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  15. Joel Slemrod, 1989. "Optimal Taxation and Optimal Tax Systems," NBER Working Papers 3038, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Lars P. Feld & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2002. "Why People Obey the Law: Experimental Evidence from the Provision of Public Goods," CESifo Working Paper Series 651, CESifo Group Munich.
  17. 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.
  18. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Robert Ullmann & Christoph Watrin, 2008. "Comparing Direct and Indirect Taxation: The Influence of Framing on Tax Compliance," European Journal of Comparative Economics, Cattaneo University (LIUC), vol. 5(1), pages 23-56, June.
  2. Vargas, Jose P Mauricio, 2012. "To be or not to be informal?: A Structural Simulation," MPRA Paper 41290, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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