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Can whistleblower programs reduce tax evasion? Experimental evidence

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  • Masclet, David
  • Montmarquette, Claude
  • Viennot-Briot, Nathalie

Abstract

There are many ways of tackling tax evasion. The traditional strategies implemented by tax authorities fight fiscal fraud through audits and penalties. However, there also exist a plethora of unconventional methods, such as whistleblower programs. Although there is rich economic literature on tax evasion, auditing and penalties, tax agencies’ heavy reliance on whistleblower programs has mostly been ignored. We ran an experiment in which taxpayers can punish tax evaders by reporting them to the authorities, even though it is costly for them to do so and despite the lack of any material benefit from doing so. Information on other taxpayers' compliance rates together with the opportunity to report tax evaders have a positive and very significant effect on the level of income reported. Observing the compliance rates of other participants alone does not suffice to increase tax revenues.

Suggested Citation

  • Masclet, David & Montmarquette, Claude & Viennot-Briot, Nathalie, 2019. "Can whistleblower programs reduce tax evasion? Experimental evidence," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 83(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:83:y:2019:i:c:s2214804318304695
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2019.101459
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    Keywords

    Fiscal fraud; Whistleblowers; Ambiguous risk; Laboratory experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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