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Tax compliance and obedience to authority at home and in the lab: A new experimental approach

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  • C. Cadsby

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  • Elizabeth Maynes

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  • Viswanath Trivedi

    ()

Abstract

In most experimental studies of tax evasion, participants are instructed that they may report any amount of income from zero up to the amount they actually earned or received. This amounts to an invitation to gamble. In contrast, real-world tax authorities unambiguously demand compliance. We develop two new settings for conducting tax experiments. Both involve an explicit demand for compliance. Thus, we can determine whether knowing that the experimental authority would regard evasion as wrongful disobedience will influence compliance decisions. We demonstrate that simply telling people that they are required to pay a “participation fee” analogous to a tax produces remarkably high compliance rates and less sensitivity to changes in economic variables than in the earlier experimental literature using invitation-to-gamble language. This suggests that many people pay taxes despite the financial attraction of non-compliance because they are strongly inclined towards obeying authority. Furthermore, we show that giving participants a week to make their reporting decisions at home without an authority figure physically present overcomes the inclination to obey for some people, significantly lowering compliance rates. However, the majority still complies, even after the audit rate falls from 25% to 1%, which would make non-compliance extremely attractive if it were viewed only as a simple matter of risk and expected return. Copyright Economic Science Association 2006

Suggested Citation

  • C. Cadsby & Elizabeth Maynes & Viswanath Trivedi, 2006. "Tax compliance and obedience to authority at home and in the lab: A new experimental approach," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 9(4), pages 343-359, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:9:y:2006:i:4:p:343-359
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-006-7053-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Axel Sonntag & Daniel John Zizzo, 2015. "Institutional authority and collusion," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 13-37, July.
    2. Pelligra, Vittorio & Reggiani, Tommaso G. & Zizzo, Daniel John, 2016. "Responding to (Un)Reasonable Requests," IZA Discussion Papers 10189, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Sophie Harnay & Elisabeth Tovar, 2017. "Obeying vs. resisting unfair laws. A structural analysis of the internalization of collective preferences on redistribution using classification trees and random forests," EconomiX Working Papers 2017-34, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    4. Karakostas, Alexandros & Zizzo, Daniel John, 2016. "Compliance and the power of authority," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 67-80.
    5. Christoph Bühren & Thorben C. Kundt, 2013. "Worker or Shirker – Who Evades More Taxes? A Real Effort Experiment," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201326, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    6. Vivi Alatas & Lisa Cameron & Ananish Chaudhuri & Nisvan Erkal & Lata Gangadharan, 2009. "Subject pool effects in a corruption experiment: A comparison of Indonesian public servants and Indonesian students," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 12(1), pages 113-132, March.
    7. Cadsby C. Bram & Song Fei & Tapon Francis, 2010. "Are You Paying Your Employees to Cheat? An Experimental Investigation," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-32, April.
    8. Lubian, Diego & Zarri, Luca, 2011. "Happiness and tax morale: An empirical analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 223-243.
    9. Stefura Gabriela, 2012. "The Role of Opportunity, Taxpayers’ Perceptions and Demographic Differences in Tax Compliance Analysis," Annals - Economic and Administrative Series -, Faculty of Business and Administration, University of Bucharest, vol. 6(1), pages 163-177, December.
    10. Arbex, Marcelo & Carré, Justin M. & Geniole, Shawn N. & Mattos, Enlinson, 2018. "Tax evasion, testosterone and personality traits," Textos para discussão 466, FGV/EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
    11. McKee, Michael & Siladke, Caleb & Vossler, Christian A., 2011. "Behavioral dynamics of tax compliance under an information services initiative," MPRA Paper 38865, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Alm, James & Cherry, Todd L. & Jones, Michael & McKee, Michael, 2012. "Social programs as positive inducements for tax participation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 85-96.
    13. Johnson, Cathleen & Masclet, David & Montmarquette, Claude, 2010. "The Effect of Perfect Monitoring of Matched Income on Sales Tax Compliance: An Experimental Investigation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 63(1), pages 121-148, March.
    14. Byung-hill Jun & Myeonghwan Cho & Myung-Ho Park, 2015. "Procedural Fairness and Taxpayers�� Response Evidence from an Experimen," Korean Economic Review, Korean Economic Association, vol. 31, pages 301-326.
    15. Durham, Yvonne & Manly, Tracy S. & Ritsema, Christina, 2014. "The effects of income source, context, and income level on tax compliance decisions in a dynamic experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 220-233.
    16. Vossler, Christian A. & McKee, Michael & Jones, Michael, 2011. "Some effects of tax information services reliability and availability on tax reporting behavior," MPRA Paper 38870, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Kogler, Christoph & Mittone, Luigi & Kirchler, Erich, 2016. "Delayed feedback on tax audits affects compliance and fairness perceptions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 81-87.
    18. Silverman, Dan & Slemrod, Joel & Uler, Neslihan, 2014. "Distinguishing the role of authority “in” and authority “to”," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 32-42.

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    Keywords

    Tax; Compliance; Evasion; Experiment; Obedience;

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