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The Optimality of Punishing Only the Innocent: The Case of Tax Evasion

  • Robin Boadway
  • Motohiro Sato

We study the effectson tax enforcement and tax policy of unintentional complianceerrors by taxpayers and administrative errors by tax auditors.The government can impose both penalties for misreporting andrewards for honest reporting. Maximal sanctions will not be appliedbecause errors are possible, so evasion cannot be eliminatedcostlessly. Under optimal policy intentional evasion can be deterred,but innocent tax evaders must be penalized whether they haveunintentionally evaded or have been mistakenly convicted. Thisdeters intentional evasion, but limits redistribution. Withoutrewards for honest reporting, the revelation principle need notapply, so intentional evasion can occur. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

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Article provided by Springer in its journal International Tax and Public Finance.

Volume (Year): 7 (2000)
Issue (Month): 6 (December)
Pages: 641-664

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Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:7:y:2000:i:6:p:641-664
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  1. Robin W. Boadway & Nicolas Marceau, 1993. "Time-Consistent Criminal Sanctions," Working Papers 883, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  2. Bordignon, Massimo, 1993. "A fairness approach to income tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 345-362, October.
  3. Polinsky, Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1979. "The Optimal Tradeoff between the Probability and Magnitude of Fines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(5), pages 880-91, December.
  4. Boadway, Robin & Keen, Michael, 1998. "Evasion and Time Consistency in the Taxation of Capital Income," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(2), pages 461-76, May.
  5. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1993. "Tax evasion and optimal commodity taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 261-275, February.
  6. Frank A. Cowell, 1990. "Cheating the Government: The Economics of Evasion," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262532484, June.
  7. Stern, Nicholas, 1982. "Optimum taxation with errors in administration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 181-211, March.
  8. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Accuracy in the Determination of Liability," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 1-15, April.
  9. Marhuenda, Francisco & Ortuno-Ortin, Ignacio, 1997. " Tax Enforcement Problems," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 99(1), pages 61-72, March.
  10. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1996. "Tax evasion and the optimum general income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 235-249, May.
  11. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  12. Dan Usher, 1986. "Tax Evasion and the Marginal Cost of Public Funds," Working Papers 637, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  13. 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.
  14. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-95, September.
  15. Reinganum, Jennifer F. & Wilde, Louis L., 1985. "Income tax compliance in a principal-agent framework," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 1-18, February.
  16. Chander, Parkash & Wilde, Louis L, 1998. "A General Characterization of Optimal Income Tax Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(1), pages 165-83, January.
  17. 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.
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