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Tax Riots


  • Marco Bassetto
  • Christopher Phelan


This paper considers an optimal taxation environment where household income is private information, and the government randomly audits and punishes households found to be underreporting. We prove that the optimal mechanism derived using standard mechanism design techniques has a bad equilibrium (a tax riot) where households underreport their incomes, precisely because other households are expected to do so as well. We then consider three alternative approaches to designing a tax scheme when one is worried about bad equilibria. Copyright 2008, Wiley-Blackwell.

Suggested Citation

  • Marco Bassetto & Christopher Phelan, 2008. "Tax Riots," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(3), pages 649-669.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:75:y:2008:i:3:p:649-669

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Arellano, Cristina & Kocherlakota, Narayana, 2014. "Internal debt crises and sovereign defaults," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(S), pages 68-80.
    2. Kocherlakota, Narayana & Phelan, Christopher, 2009. "On the robustness of laissez-faire," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(6), pages 2372-2387, November.
    3. Felix J., Bierbrauer, 2011. "On the optimality of optimal income taxation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(5), pages 2105-2116, September.
    4. Galbiati, Roberto & Zanella, Giulio, 2012. "The tax evasion social multiplier: Evidence from Italy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(5), pages 485-494.
    5. Pagnozzi, Marco & Piccolo, Salvatore, 2017. "Contracting with endogenous entry," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 85-110.
    6. Carrasco, Vinicius & Salgado, Pablo, 2014. "Coordinated strategic defaults and financial fragility in a costly state verification model," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 129-139.
    7. Eduardo Zilberman, 2016. "Audits or Distortions: The Optimal Scheme to Enforce Self-Employment Income Taxes," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 18(4), pages 511-544, August.
    8. Florian Scheuer, 2013. "Optimal Asset Taxes in Financial Markets with Aggregate Uncertainty," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(3), pages 405-420, July.
    9. Damjanovic, Tatiana & Ulph, David, 2010. "Tax progressivity, income distribution and tax non-compliance," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(4), pages 594-607, May.
    10. Zoutman, Floris T. & Jacobs, Bas, 2016. "Optimal redistribution and monitoring of labor supply," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 15-31.
    11. Bierbrauer, Felix & Sahm, Marco, 2010. "Optimal democratic mechanisms for taxation and public good provision," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 453-466, August.
    12. Restrepo-Echavarria, Paulina, 2014. "Macroeconomic volatility: The role of the informal economy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 454-469.
    13. Sanchez Villalba, Miguel, 2015. "Global inspection games," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 59-72.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance


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