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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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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1023/A:1008777309680
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Article provided by Springer & International Institute of Public Finance 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
DOI: 10.1023/A:1008777309680
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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
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  6. Frank A. Cowell, 1990. "Cheating the Government: The Economics of Evasion," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262532484, March.
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  8. 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.
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  15. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1993. "Tax evasion and optimal commodity taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 261-275, February.
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  17. 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.
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