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Reference dependent preferences, hedonic adaptation and tax evasion: Does the tax burden matter?

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  • Bernasconi, Michele
  • Corazzini, Luca
  • Seri, Raffaello

Abstract

We study the effects of the tax burden on tax evasion both theoretically and experimentally. We develop a theoretical framework of tax evasion decisions that is based on two behavioral assumptions: (1) taxpayers are endowed with reference dependent preferences that are subject to hedonic adaptation and (2) in making their choices, taxpayers are affected by ethical concerns. The model generates new predictions on how a change in the tax rate affects the decision to evade taxes. Contrary to the classical expected utility theory, but in line with previous applications of reference dependent preferences to taxpayers’ decisions, an increase in the tax rate increases tax evasion. Moreover, as taxpayers adapt to the new legal tax rate, the decision to evade taxes becomes independent of the tax rate. We present results from a laboratory experiment that support the main predictions of the model.

Suggested Citation

  • Bernasconi, Michele & Corazzini, Luca & Seri, Raffaello, 2014. "Reference dependent preferences, hedonic adaptation and tax evasion: Does the tax burden matter?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 103-118.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:40:y:2014:i:c:p:103-118
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2013.01.005
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    6. Zhang, nan & Qin, Botao, 2020. "Reference point adaptation and air quality – Experimental evidence with anti-PM 2.5 facemasks from China," MPRA Paper 102935, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Siglé, Maarten & Goslinga, Sjoerd & Speklé, Roland & van der Hel, Lisette & Veldhuizen, Robbert, 2018. "Corporate tax compliance: Is a change towards trust-based tax strategies justified?," Journal of International Accounting, Auditing and Taxation, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 3-16.
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    9. Andrea Albarea & Michele Bernasconi & Anna Marenzi & Dino Rizzi, 2021. "Tax evasion, behavioral microsimulation models and flat-rate tax reforms. Analysis for Italy," Working Papers 2021:26, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
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    13. Jonathan Farrar & Dawn W. Massey & Errol Osecki & Linda Thorne, 2021. "The Association Between Vertical Equity and Presidential Voting Behavior and Taxpayers’ Compliance," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 172(1), pages 101-114, August.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax evasion; Prospect theory; Adaptation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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