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Social programs as positive inducements for tax participation

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  • Alm, James
  • Cherry, Todd L.
  • Jones, Michael
  • McKee, Michael

Abstract

A significant amount of non-compliance with the personal income tax is due to individuals who have not filed a tax return and so who are not “in the system”. We use experimental laboratory methods to examine the effect of positive inducements for filing a tax return. Our design captures the essential features of a voluntary income reporting and tax assessment system: human participants earn income, they must decide whether to file a tax return, and, conditional upon filing, they must choose how much income to report. Taxes are paid on reported income only. Unreported income of filers may be discovered via a random audit, and the participant then pays owed taxes plus a fine. Inducements for filing are introduced as treatments: a social safety net (e.g., unemployment replacement income) that is conditional upon past filing behavior, and a tax credit that is available only to those who file. Our results suggest that an untargeted tax credit can encourage participation, but that targeting the credit to low income earners offers a stronger inducement to file. Also, the provision of a social safety net via unemployment benefits has a positive, albeit an indirect, impact on participation.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:84:y:2012:i:1:p:85-96 DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.07.009
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Johnny Ducking & Peter A. Groothuis & James Richard Hill, 2014. "Compensation discrimination in the NFL: an analysis of career earnings," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, pages 679-682.
    2. Nicolas Jacquemet & Stéphane Luchini & Antoine Malézieux & Jason F. Shogren, 2017. "L’évasion fiscale est-elle un trait de personnalité ?. Une évaluation empirique des déterminants psychologiques de la « morale fiscale »," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, pages 809-828.
    3. James Alm & Kim M. Bloomquist & Michael McKee, 2015. "On The External Validity Of Laboratory Tax Compliance Experiments," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(2), pages 1170-1186, April.
    4. Figari, Francesco & Paulus, Alari & Sutherland, Holly, 2014. "Microsimulation and policy analysis," ISER Working Paper Series 2014-23, Institute for Social and Economic Research.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax evasion; Tax compliance; Behavioral economics; Experimental economics;

    JEL classification:

    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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