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The Good, the Bad, and the Regulator: An Experimental Test of Two Conditional Audit Schemes


  • Jeremy Clark
  • Lana Friesen
  • Andrew Muller


Conditional audit rules are designed to achieve regulatory compliance with fewer inspections than required by random auditing. A regulator places individuals into audit pools that differ in probability of audit or severity of fine and specifies transition rules between pools. Future pool assignment is conditional on current audit results. We conduct an experiment to compare two specific schemes--Harrington's Past-Compliance Targeting and Friesen's Optimal Targeting--against random auditing. We find a production possibility frontier between compliance and minimizing inspections. Optimal targeting generates the lowest inspection rates as predicted, but random auditing the highest compliance. Past-compliance targeting is intermediate. (JEL C91, H26, K42, L51) Copyright 2004, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeremy Clark & Lana Friesen & Andrew Muller, 2004. "The Good, the Bad, and the Regulator: An Experimental Test of Two Conditional Audit Schemes," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(1), pages 69-87, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ecinqu:v:42:y:2004:i:1:p:69-87

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy N. Cason & Lata Gangadharan, 2006. "An Experimental Study of Compliance and Leverage in Auditing and Regulatory Enforcement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(2), pages 352-366, April.
    2. Bayer, Ralph & Cowell, Frank, 2009. "Tax compliance and firms' strategic interdependence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1131-1143, December.
    3. Christian A. Vossler & Scott M. Gilpatric, 2017. "Endogenous Tax Audits and Taxpayer Assistance Services: Theory and Experiments," Working Papers 2017-01, University of Tennessee, Department of Economics.
    4. Kogler, Christoph & Batrancea, Larissa & Nichita, Anca & Pantya, Jozsef & Belianin, Alexis & Kirchler, Erich, 2013. "Trust and power as determinants of tax compliance: Testing the assumptions of the slippery slope framework in Austria, Hungary, Romania and Russia," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 169-180.
    5. Gilpatric, Scott M. & Vossler, Christian A. & Liu, Lirong, 2015. "Using competition to stimulate regulatory compliance: A tournament-based dynamic targeting mechanism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 182-196.
    6. Yoshio Kamijo & Takehito Masuda & Hiroshi Uemura, 2015. "Who is audited? Experimental study on rule-based and human tax auditing schemes," Working Papers SDES-2015-9, Kochi University of Technology, School of Economics and Management, revised Jan 2015.
    7. Lana Friesen, 2012. "Certainty of Punishment versus Severity of Punishment: An Experimental Investigation," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 399-421, October.
    8. Lindeboom, Maarten & van der Klaauw, Bas & Vriend, Sandra, 2016. "Audit rates and compliance: A field experiment in care provision," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PB), pages 160-173.
    9. Lindeboom, Maarten & van der Klaauw, Bas & Vriend, Sandra, 2014. "Audit rates and compliance: A field experiment in long-term care," CEPR Discussion Papers 9924, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Tan, Fangfang & Yim, Andrew, 2014. "Can strategic uncertainty help deter tax evasion? An experiment on auditing rules," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 161-174.
    11. Coria, Jessica & Zhang, Xiao-Bing, 2015. "The Harrington Paradox Squared," Working Papers in Economics 608, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation


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