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Expanding the Theory of Tax Compliance from Individual to Group Motivations

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  • James Alm

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Tulane University)

Abstract

Taxpayers face well-known and well-identified individual motivations in their compliance decisions, motivations that originate with the standard economic model of tax evasion in which financial incentives are shaped by audit, penalty, and tax rates. However, there is growing evidence that these individual incentives, while important, are not always decisive. Individuals do not always behave as the selfish, rational, self-interested individuals portrayed in the standard neoclassical paradigm, but rather are often motivated by many other factors that have as their main foundation some aspects of social norms, morality, altruism, fairness, or the like, factors that I broadly and no doubt imprecisely lump together as group motivations. I argue that the compliance puzzle can be explained, at least in part, by expanding the standard analysis of individual compliance behavior to incorporate the important ways in which individual decisions are shaped by group motivations. I also provide empirical and experimental evidence to support these arguments, and, I suggest – and predict – some promising lines of future research.

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File URL: http://econ.tulane.edu/RePEc/pdf/tul1309.pdf
File Function: First Version, February 2013
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Tulane University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1309.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tul:wpaper:1309

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Keywords: tax evasion; behavioral economics; experimental economics;

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References

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  1. Henrik J. Kleven & Martin B. Knudsen & Claus T. Kreiner & Søren Pedersen & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Unwilling or Unable to Cheat? Evidence from a Randomized Tax Audit Experiment in Denmark," NBER Working Papers 15769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Joel Slemrod & Caroline Weber, 2012. "Evidence of the invisible: toward a credibility revolution in the empirical analysis of tax evasion and the informal economy," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 25-53, February.
  3. James C. Cox, 2012. "Private Goods, Public Goods, and Common Pools with Homo Reciprocans," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 1-14, July.
  4. Roberta Calvet & James Alm, 2013. "Empathy, Sympathy, and Tax Compliance," Working Papers 1310, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  5. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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.
  7. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
  8. James Alm, 2012. "Measuring, explaining, and controlling tax evasion: lessons from theory, experiments, and field studies," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 54-77, February.
  9. 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.
  10. Erard, Brian & Feinstein, Jonathan S, 1994. "The Role of Moral Sentiments and Audit Perceptions in Tax Compliance," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 49(Supplemen), pages 70-89.
  11. 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.
  12. Agnar Sandmo, 2012. "An evasive topic: theorizing about the hidden economy," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 5-24, February.
  13. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  14. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  15. 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.
  16. Kirchler, Erich & Hoelzl, Erik & Wahl, Ingrid, 2008. "Enforced versus voluntary tax compliance: The "slippery slope" framework," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 210-225, April.
  17. James Alm & Jorge Martinez-Vazque & Benno Torgler, 2006. "Russian attitudes toward paying taxes – before, during, and after the transition," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 33(12), pages 832-857, December.
  18. Alm, James & Torgler, Benno, 2006. "Culture differences and tax morale in the United States and in Europe," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 224-246, April.
  19. Gordon, James P. P., 1989. "Individual morality and reputation costs as deterrents to tax evasion," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 797-805, April.
  20. Bernasconi, Michele, 1998. "Tax evasion and orders of risk aversion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 123-134, January.
  21. Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1994. "The Role of Moral Sentiments and Audit Perceptions in Tax Compliance," Carleton Industrial Organization Research Unit (CIORU) 94-03, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
  22. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
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