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A Neuroeconomic Approach Of Tax Behavior


  • Batrancea Larissa-Margareta

    () (Universitatea Babes-Bolyai, Facultatea de Business)

  • Nichita Ramona-Anca

    () (Universitatea Babes-Bolyai, Facultatea de Stiinte Economice si Gestiunea Afacerilor)


Governments around the world register substantial losses due to tax non-compliance behavior. Whether it is tax avoidance or tax evasion, non-compliance has repercussions on the whole society because it mitigates the quality of the provision of public goods. Nevertheless, the level of tax compliance is significantly higher than the classical tax evasion model of Allingham and Sandmo (1972) predicts. A manifold of theoretical and empirical studies invalidate the assumptions of the classical model by trying to give answers to one of the most intriguing questions: Why people pay taxes? Taking into consideration these realities, we summarize some of the findings related to tax behavior within the emerging new field of neuroeconomics. Using state-of-the-art technology (non-invasive brain stimulation, non-invasive measurement of brain activity, pharmacological interventions to raise or lower the activity of neurotransmitters, eye-tracking or skin conductance response), neuroeconomics steps on the scene to give insights on the reasons for which taxpayers display a certain tax behavior. According to the neuroeconomics mainstream literature, emotions guide the decision-making process when outcomes are uncertain with regards to rewards and losses. At neural level, the amygdala triggers bodily states related to reward and loss and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex reenacts past experiences of reward and loss to predict future outcomes. Some taxpayers who decide to engage in tax evasion experience a positive feeling when anticipating the profit from dodging taxes, feeling that is triggered by the amygdala. Other taxpayers don’t engage in tax evasion because they want to avoid negative feelings (shame, guilt, regret). Oxytocin facilitates dopamine release which is a positive physiological motivation for cooperation. As a consequence, taxpayers’ trust levels increase and, with it, increases the propensity to comply with the tax law. Besides summarizing neuroeconomics findings related to tax behavior, we also draw attention on some policy implications which may derive from neuroeconomics studies and may assist authorities in raising tax compliance levels. Tax evasion is showed to decrease in trustful environments where tax authorities facilitate compliance process and where taxpayers believe their true earnings can be accurately estimated by tax authorities. Tax evasion also decreases when tax authorities publicly denounce tax offenders.

Suggested Citation

  • Batrancea Larissa-Margareta & Nichita Ramona-Anca, 2012. "A Neuroeconomic Approach Of Tax Behavior," Annals of Faculty of Economics, University of Oradea, Faculty of Economics, vol. 1(1), pages 649-654, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:ora:journl:v:1:y:2012:i:1:p:649-654

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Coricelli, Giorgio & Joffily, Mateus & Montmarquette, Claude & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2007. "Tax Evasion: Cheating Rationally or Deciding Emotionally?," IZA Discussion Papers 3103, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. James Alm & Benno Torgler, 2011. "Do Ethics Matter? Tax Compliance and Morality," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(4), pages 635-651, July.
    3. Colin F. Camerer & George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 2004. "Neuroeconomics: Why Economics Needs Brains," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 555-579, October.
    4. Kirchler, Erich & Hoelzl, Erik & Wahl, Ingrid, 2008. "Enforced versus voluntary tax compliance: The "slippery slope" framework," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 210-225, April.
    5. Bechara, Antoine & Damasio, Antonio R., 2005. "The somatic marker hypothesis: A neural theory of economic decision," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 336-372, August.
    6. Ernst Fehr & Antonio Rangel, 2011. "Neuroeconomic Foundations of Economic Choice--Recent Advances," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 3-30, Fall.
    7. Kirchler,Erich, 2007. "The Economic Psychology of Tax Behaviour," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521876742, April.
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    More about this item


    neuroeconomics; tax compliance; trust; oxytocin; eye-tracking;

    JEL classification:

    • D87 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Neuroeconomics
    • G02 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Behavioral Finance: Underlying Principles
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance


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