IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/joepsy/v63y2017icp27-42.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

How income and tax rates provoke cheating – An experimental investigation of tax morale

Author

Listed:
  • Grundmann, Susanna
  • Graf Lambsdorff, Johann

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence suggests that tax morale diminishes with income and with levels of taxation. We designed an experiment that enables identification of causal effects. Subjects carry out a sequence of real effort tasks. The income earned varies with individual differences in effort (combined with variances related to skill or luck) and with the exogenously given length of the tasks. For each task, subjects privately roll a die, whose value determines the tax rate, which is then reported by subjects. This provides subjects with an incentive to cheat. Tax morale diminishes with higher effort, which might find ethical justification, but also with longer tasks, which would not. We implement treatments that vary the range of taxation. Contrary to widespread belief, participants’ tax morale is invariant to these treatments. Our findings are best explained by a psychological force that tempts rich people to cheat more. This force does not seem to be related to fairness ideals that are prominent in theories of distributional justice nor to absolute levels of taxation.

Suggested Citation

  • Grundmann, Susanna & Graf Lambsdorff, Johann, 2017. "How income and tax rates provoke cheating – An experimental investigation of tax morale," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 27-42.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:63:y:2017:i:c:p:27-42
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2017.10.003
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167487017301253
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1016/j.joep.2017.10.003?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Benno Torgler, 2003. "Beyond Punishment: a tax compliance experiment with taxpayers in Costa Rica," Revista de Analisis Economico – Economic Analysis Review, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Business, vol. 18(1), pages 27-56, June.
    2. Djawadi, Behnud Mir & Fahr, René, 2013. "The Impact of Tax Knowledge and Budget Spending Influence on Tax Compliance," IZA Discussion Papers 7255, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy & Villeval, Marie-Claire, 2007. "Tax evasion and social interactions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2089-2112, December.
    4. Urs Fischbacher & Franziska Föllmi-Heusi, 2013. "Lies In Disguise—An Experimental Study On Cheating," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 525-547, June.
    5. Gerxhani, Klarita & Schram, Arthur, 2006. "Tax evasion and income source: A comparative experimental study," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 402-422, June.
    6. Frey, Bruno S. & Torgler, Benno, 2007. "Tax morale and conditional cooperation," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 136-159, March.
    7. Friedrich Heinemann & Martin Kocher, 2013. "Tax compliance under tax regime changes," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 20(2), pages 225-246, April.
    8. Giese, Sebastian & Hoffmann, Antje, 2000. "Tax evasion and risky investments in an intertemporal context: An experimental study," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 2000,30, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
    9. James Konow, 2003. "Which Is the Fairest One of All? A Positive Analysis of Justice Theories," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1188-1239, December.
    10. Pántya, József & Kovács, Judit & Kogler, Christoph & Kirchler, Erich, 2016. "Work performance and tax compliance in flat and progressive tax systems," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 262-273.
    11. Alexander W. Cappelen & Astri Drange Hole & Erik Ø Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2007. "The Pluralism of Fairness Ideals: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 818-827, June.
    12. Lars P. Feld & Bruno S. Frey, 2002. "Trust breeds trust: How taxpayers are treated," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 87-99, July.
    13. Giorgio Coricelli & Mateus Joffily & Claude Montmarquette & Marie Villeval, 2010. "Cheating, emotions, and rationality: an experiment on tax evasion," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 13(2), pages 226-247, June.
    14. Nadja Dwenger & Henrik Kleven & Imran Rasul & Johannes Rincke, 2016. "Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivations for Tax Compliance: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Germany," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 203-232, August.
    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. Alm, James & Jackson, Betty & McKee, Michael J., 1992. "Estimating the Determinants of Taxpayer Compliance with Experimental Data," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 45(1), pages 107-14, March.
    17. Doerrenberg, Philipp & Duncan, Denvil, 2014. "Experimental evidence on the relationship between tax evasion opportunities and labor supply," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 48-70.
    18. Vital Anderhub & Sebastian Giese & Werner Güth & Antje Hoffmann & Thomas Otto, 2001. "Tax Evasion with Earned Income - An Experimental Study," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 58(2), pages 188-188, February.
    19. Victoria Prowse & David Gill, 2009. "A Novel Computerized Real Effort Task Based on Sliders," Economics Series Working Papers 435, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    20. Coricelli, Giorgio & Rusconi, Elena & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2014. "Tax evasion and emotions: An empirical test of re-integrative shaming theory," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 49-61.
    21. Deffains, Bruno & Espinosa, Romain & Thöni, Christian, 2016. "Political self-serving bias and redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 67-74.
    22. Hallsworth, Michael & List, John A. & Metcalfe, Robert D. & Vlaev, Ivo, 2017. "The behavioralist as tax collector: Using natural field experiments to enhance tax compliance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 14-31.
    23. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
    24. Bühren Christoph & Kundt Thorben C., 2014. "Does the Level of Work Effort Influence Tax Evasion? Experimental Evidence," Review of Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 65(2), pages 137-158, August.
    25. Naomi E. Feldman & Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Estimating tax noncompliance with evidence from unaudited tax returns," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(518), pages 327-352, March.
    26. Raymond Fisman & Shang-Jin Wei, 2004. "Tax Rates and Tax Evasion: Evidence from "Missing Imports" in China," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 471-500, April.
    27. David Gill & Victoria Prowse, 2012. "A Structural Analysis of Disappointment Aversion in a Real Effort Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 469-503, February.
    28. Erik Hurst & Geng Li & Benjamin Pugsley, 2014. "Are Household Surveys Like Tax Forms? Evidence from Income Underreporting of the Self-Employed," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 19-33, March.
    29. Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Monica Singhal, 2014. "Tax Morale," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 149-168, Fall.
    30. 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.
    31. Alm, James & Jackson, Betty & McKee, Michael J., 1992. "Estimating the Determinants of Taxpayer Compliance With Experimental Data," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 45(1), pages 107-114, March.
    32. 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 657-683, December.
    33. Nisvan Erkal & Lata Gangadharan & Nikos Nikiforakis, 2011. "Relative Earnings and Giving in a Real-Effort Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3330-3348, December.
    34. Max Everest-Phillips, 2010. "State-Building Taxation for Developing Countries: Principles for Reform," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 28(1), pages 75-96, January.
    35. 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.
    36. Kay Blaufus & Jonathan Bob & Philipp E. Otto & Nadja Wolf, 2017. "The Effect of Tax Privacy on Tax Compliance – An Experimental Investigation," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(3), pages 561-580, July.
    37. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
    38. Friedland, Nehemiah & Maital, Shlomo & Rutenberg, Aryeh, 1978. "A simulation study of income tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 107-116, August.
    39. James Konow, 2000. "Fair Shares: Accountability and Cognitive Dissonance in Allocation Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1072-1091, September.
    40. Buckley, Edward & Croson, Rachel, 2006. "Income and wealth heterogeneity in the voluntary provision of linear public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 935-955, May.
    41. Nikolaos Artavanis & Adair Morse & Margarita Tsoutsoura, 2016. "Measuring Income Tax Evasion Using Bank Credit: Evidence from Greece," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(2), pages 739-798.
    42. Shalvi, Shaul & Dana, Jason & Handgraaf, Michel J.J. & De Dreu, Carsten K.W., 2011. "Justified ethicality: Observing desired counterfactuals modifies ethical perceptions and behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 181-190, July.
    43. Philipp Doerrenberg & Denvil Duncan, 2014. "Distributional Implications of Tax Evasion," Public Finance Review, , vol. 42(6), pages 720-744, November.
    44. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Fochmann, Martin & Hechtner, Frank & Kirchler, Erich & Mohr, Peter N. C., 2019. "When happy people make society unhappy: How incidental emotions affect compliance behavior," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 237, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    2. Fries, Tilman & Parra, Daniel, 2020. "Because I (don't) deserve it: Entitlement and lying behavior," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Ethics and Behavioral Economics SP II 2020-401, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    3. Martina Manfre' & Viola Angelini, 2018. "Does The Financial Situation affect Cheating Behavior? An Investigation through Financial Literacy," Working Papers 06/2018, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    4. Martin Fochmann & Frank Hechtner & Tobias Kölle & Michael Overesch, 2021. "Combating overreporting of deductions in tax returns: prefilling and restricting the deductibility of expenditures," Journal of Business Economics, Springer, vol. 91(7), pages 935-964, September.
    5. Grundmann, Susanna, 2020. "Do just deserts and competition shape patterns of cheating?," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-79-20, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.
    6. Fries, Tilman & Parra, Daniel, 2021. "Because I (don’t) deserve it: Entitlement and lying behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 185(C), pages 495-512.
    7. Fochmann, Martin & Müller, Nadja & Overesch, Michael, 2018. "Less cheating? The effects of prefilled forms on compliance behavior," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 227, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    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. Grundmann, Susanna, 2020. "Do just deserts and competition shape patterns of cheating?," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-79-20, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.
    3. James Alm & Antoine Malézieux, 2021. "40 years of tax evasion games: a meta-analysis," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 24(3), pages 699-750, September.
    4. James Alm, 2019. "What Motivates Tax Compliance?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 353-388, April.
    5. Sandro Casal & Veronika Grimm & Simeon Schächtele, 2019. "Taxation with Mobile High-Income Agents: Experimental Evidence on Tax Compliance and Equity Perceptions," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(4), pages 1-29, October.
    6. James, Simon & Edwards, Alison, 2010. "An annotated bibliography of tax compliance and tax compliance costs," MPRA Paper 26106, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Bayer, Ralph-C & Sutter, Matthias, 2009. "The excess burden of tax evasion--An experimental detection-concealment contest," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(5), pages 527-543, July.
    8. Doerrenberg, Philipp & Duncan, Denvil, 2014. "Experimental evidence on the relationship between tax evasion opportunities and labor supply," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 48-70.
    9. Friedrich Heinemann & Martin Kocher, 2013. "Tax compliance under tax regime changes," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 20(2), pages 225-246, April.
    10. Kristina M. Bott & Alexander W. Cappelen & Erik Ø. Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2020. "You’ve Got Mail: A Randomized Field Experiment on Tax Evasion," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(7), pages 2801-2819, July.
    11. Pickhardt, Michael & Prinz, Aloys, 2014. "Behavioral dynamics of tax evasion – A survey," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 1-19.
    12. Mascagni, Giulia, 2016. "From the Lab to the Field: a Review of Tax Experiments," Working Papers 8967, Institute of Development Studies, International Centre for Tax and Development.
    13. Samreen Malik & Benedikt Mihm & Florian Timme, 2018. "An experimental analysis of tax avoidance policies," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 25(1), pages 200-239, February.
    14. Colin C. Williams, 2014. "Confronting the Shadow Economy," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 15370, June.
    15. James Alm & Matthias Kasper, 2020. "Laboratory Experiments," Working Papers 2008, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    16. Giulia Mascagni, 2018. "From The Lab To The Field: A Review Of Tax Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(2), pages 273-301, April.
    17. Aaron Kamm & Christian Koch & Nikos Nikiforakis, 2017. "The ghost of institutions past: History as an obstacle to fighting tax evasion," Working Papers 20170008, New York University Abu Dhabi, Department of Social Science, revised Oct 2017.
    18. Torgler, Benno & Schneider, Friedrich & Schaltegger, Christoph A., 2007. "With or Against the People? The Impact of a Bottom-Up Approach on Tax Morale and the Shadow Economy," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt6331x6vz, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    19. Mascagni, Giulia, 2017. "From the Lab to the Field: A Review of Tax Experiments," Working Papers 13726, Institute of Development Studies, International Centre for Tax and Development.
    20. Casal, Sandro & Mittone, Luigi, 2016. "Social esteem versus social stigma: The role of anonymity in an income reporting game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 55-66.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cheating; Taxation; Tax morale; Laboratory experiment; Income; Real-effort task;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

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

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:63:y:2017:i:c:p:27-42. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/joep .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/joep .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.