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Tax avoidance and the endogenous formation of social norms

  • Balestrino, Alessandro

We analyse a model of income tax avoidance with heterogenous agents who face monetary as well as psychic costs in order to successfully hide their income from the fisc. We argue that, in general, the stigmatisation of tax dodging is motivated by the desire to make redistribution more effective. In this context, we demonstrate two results. First, we study the policy preferences of the agents, identify a median-agent political equilibrium, and show that the psychic cost of tax dodging leads to a highly progressive income tax. Second, we model the endogenous formation of stigma as a "conformism game", and argue that, since high levels of stigma are favoured by the low-income agents, a society-wide condemnation of tax dodging will be established only in robust democracies where these agents possess enough social influence.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics).

Volume (Year): 39 (2010)
Issue (Month): 5 (October)
Pages: 601-609

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Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:39:y:2010:i:5:p:601-609
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/620175

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  1. Alessandro Balestrino, 2006. "Tax Avoidance, Endogenous Social Norms, and the Comparison Income Effect," CESifo Working Paper Series 1758, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1998. "Regulatory Discretion and the Unofficial Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 387-92, May.
  3. Cullis, John G. & Lewis, Alan, 1997. "Why people pay taxes: From a conventional economic model to a model of social convention," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 18(2-3), pages 305-321, April.
  4. Friedman, Eric & Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 2000. "Dodging the grabbing hand: the determinants of unofficial activity in 69 countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 459-493, June.
  5. Dufwenberg, Martin & Lundholm, Michael, 1997. "Social Norms and Moral Hazard," Working Paper Series 1997:28, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  6. Lindbeck, Assar & Nyberg, Sten & Weibull, Jörgen W., 1997. "Social Norms and Economic Incentives in the Welfare State," Working Paper Series 476, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  7. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2005. "Identity and the Economics of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 9-32, Winter.
  8. Myles, Gareth D. & Naylor, Robin A., 1996. "A model of tax evasion with group conformity and social customs," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 49-66, April.
  9. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  10. Robin Boadway & Maurice Marchand & Pierre Pestieau, 1992. "Towards a Theory of the Direct-Indirect Tax Mix," Working Papers 853, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  11. Simon Johnson & Daniel Kaufman & Andrei Shleifer, 1997. "The Unofficial Economy in Transition," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 159-240.
  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, 07.
  13. Wenzel, Michael, 2004. "An analysis of norm processes in tax compliance," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 213-228, April.
  14. Frank A. Cowell, 1990. "Cheating the Government: The Economics of Evasion," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262532484, June.
  15. Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2005. "Tax bases, tax rates and the elasticity of reported income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2093-2119, December.
  16. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
  17. Friedrich Schneider & Dominik Enste, 1999. "Shadow Economies Around the World - Size, Causes, and Consequences," CESifo Working Paper Series 196, CESifo Group Munich.
  18. Dan Anderberg & Alessandro Balestrino & Umberto Galmarini, 2003. "Search and Taxation in a Model of Underground Economic Activities," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(4), pages 647-659, October.
  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. Akerlof, George A, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of Which Unemployment May be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-75, June.
  21. Gans, Joshua S. & Smart, Michael, 1996. "Majority voting with single-crossing preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 219-237, February.
  22. Torgler, Benno, 2005. "Tax morale and direct democracy," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 525-531, June.
  23. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  24. Dominik H. Enste & Friedrich Schneider, 2000. "Shadow Economies: Size, Causes, and Consequences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 77-114, March.
  25. Ashby, Julie S. & Haslam, S. Alexander & Webley, Paul, 2009. "The distinct role of group-central and group-peripheral norms in taxpaying behaviour," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 230-237, March.
  26. Cowell, F A, 1990. "Tax Sheltering and the Cost of Evasion," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(1), pages 231-43, January.
  27. Alessandro Balestrino & Umberto Galmarini, 2003. "Imperfect Tax Compliance and the Optimal Provision of Public Goods," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 37-52, January.
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