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An Experimental Study of Compliance and Leverage in Auditing and Regulatory Enforcement

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  • Timothy N. Cason
  • Lata Gangadharan

Abstract

Evidence suggests that a large majority of firms and individuals comply with regulations and tax laws even though the frequency of inspections and audits is often low. Moreover, fines for noncompliance are also typically low when regulatory violations are discovered. These observations are not consistent with static compliance models. Harrington (1988) modified these static models by specifying a dynamic game in which some agents have an incentive to comply even when the cost of compliance each period is greater than the expected penalty. This paper reports a laboratory experiment based on the Harrington model framework, in which subjects move between two inspection groups that differ in the probability of inspection and severity of fine. Subjects decide to comply or not in the presence of low, medium or high compliance costs. Enforcement leverage arises in the Harrington model from movement between the inspection groups based on previous observed compliance and noncompliance. Our results indicate that consistent with the model, violation rates increase when compliance costs become higher and as the probability of switching groups becomes lower. Behavior does not change as sharply as the model predicts, however, since violation rates do not jump from 0 to 1 as parameters vary across critical thresholds. A simple model of bounded rationality explains these deviations from optimal behavior.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The University of Melbourne in its series Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number 918.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:918

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Keywords: Regulatory Compliance; Laboratory Experiments; Tax.;

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References

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  1. 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.
  2. Oljaca, Neda & Keeler, Andrew G & Dorfman, Jeffrey, 1998. "Penalty Functions for Environmental Violations: Evidence from Water Quality Enforcement," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 255-64, November.
  3. Eckert, Heather, 2004. "Inspections, warnings, and compliance: the case of petroleum storage regulation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 232-259, March.
  4. Harford, Jon D., 1978. "Firm behavior under imperfectly enforceable pollution standards and taxes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 26-43, March.
  5. Friesen, Lana, 2003. "Targeting enforcement to improve compliance with environmental regulations," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 72-85, July.
  6. 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.
  7. Jeremy Clark & Lana Friesen & Andrew Muller, 2004. "The Good, the Bad, and the Regulator: An Experimental Test of Two Conditional Audit Schemes," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(1), pages 69-87, January.
  8. Richard Mckelvey & Thomas Palfrey, 1998. "Quantal Response Equilibria for Extensive Form Games," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 9-41, June.
  9. Philip A. Haile & Ali Horta�su & Grigory Kosenok, 2008. "On the Empirical Content of Quantal Response Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 180-200, March.
  10. Harrington, Winston, 1988. "Enforcement leverage when penalties are restricted," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 29-53, October.
  11. Salop, Steven C & Scheffman, David T, 1983. "Raising Rivals' Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 267-71, May.
  12. Linder, Stephen H. & McBride, Mark E., 1984. "Enforcement costs and regulatory reform: The agency and firm response," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 327-346, December.
  13. Alm, James & Cronshaw, Mark B & McKee, Michael, 1993. "Tax Compliance with Endogenous Audit Selection Rules," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(1), pages 27-45.
  14. Timothy N. Cason & Lata Gangadharan, 2004. "Emissions Variability in Tradable Permit Markets with Imperfect Enforcement and Banking," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 917, The University of Melbourne.
  15. Storey, D J & McCabe, P J, 1980. "The Criminal Waste Discharger," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 27(1), pages 30-40, February.
  16. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  17. Landsberger, Michael & Meilijson, Isaac, 1982. "Incentive generating state dependent penalty system : The case of income tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 333-352, December.
  18. James Alm & Michael McKee, 1998. "Extending the lessons of laboratory experiments on tax compliance to managerial and decision economics," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4-5), pages 259-275.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Cason, Timothy N. & Gangadharan, Lata, 2006. "Emissions variability in tradable permit markets with imperfect enforcement and banking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 199-216, October.
  2. Takayoshi Shinkuma & Shunsuke Managi, 2012. "Effectiveness of policy against illegal disposal of waste," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 14(2), pages 123-145, April.
  3. Lana Friesen, 2012. "Certainty of Punishment versus Severity of Punishment: An Experimental Investigation," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 399-421, October.
  4. Maarten Lindeboom & Bas van der Klaauw & Sandra Vriend, 2014. "Audit Rates and Compliance: A Field Experiment in Long-term Care," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-038/V, Tinbergen Institute.
  5. Giorgio Coricelli & Mateus Joffily & Claude Montmarquette & Marie Villeval, 2010. "Cheating, emotions, and rationality: an experiment on tax evasion," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 226-247, June.
  6. Fangfang Tan & Andrew Yim, 2011. "Can Strategic Uncertainty Help Deter Tax Evasion? – An Experiment on Auditing Rules," Working Papers can_strategic_uncertainty, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
  7. Bigoni, Maria & Le Coq, Chloé & Fridolfsson, Sven-Olof & Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2008. "Risk Aversion, Prospect Theory, and Strategic Risk in Law Enforcement: Evidence From an Antitrust Experiment," Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 696, Stockholm School of Economics.

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