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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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    Cited by:

    1. Christoph Engel, 2016. "Experimental Criminal Law. A Survey of Contributions from Law, Economics and Criminology," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2016_07, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    2. Giuseppe Attanasi & Nikolaos Georgantzís & Valentina Rotondi & Daria Vigani, 2018. "Lottery- and survey-based risk attitudes linked through a multichoice elicitation task," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 84(3), pages 341-372, May.
    3. repec:kap:theord:v:82:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11238-016-9581-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Amedeo Piolatto & Matthew D. Rablen, 2017. "Prospect theory and tax evasion: a reconsideration of the Yitzhaki puzzle," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 82(4), pages 543-565, April.
    5. repec:eee:joepsy:v:63:y:2017:i:c:p:27-42 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Duccio Gamannossi degl’Innocenti & Matthew D. Rablen, 2017. "Tax avoidance and optimal income tax enforcement," IFS Working Papers W17/08, Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax evasion; Prospect theory; Adaptation;

    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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