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Appeals to Social Norms and Taxpayer Compliance

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  • James Alm
  • William D. Schulze
  • Carrie von Bose
  • Jubo Yan

Abstract

We use laboratory experiments to examine the impact of appeals to social norms on the compliance decisions of individuals. We test the effects of two main types of social norms: “descriptive norms,” or the type of behavior that is typical or most frequently enacted, and “injunctive norms,” or the type of behavior that “constitutes morally approved and disapproved conduct”. In addition, for injunctive norms, we introduce approval‐framed and disapproval‐framed injunctive norm messages. Our results indicate that normative appeals generally have a modest and positive impact on tax compliance, if not always statistically significant. The magnitude of both approval‐ and disapproval‐framed injunctive norm messages is an increase of around 2% in reported taxes.

Suggested Citation

  • James Alm & William D. Schulze & Carrie von Bose & Jubo Yan, 2019. "Appeals to Social Norms and Taxpayer Compliance," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 86(2), pages 638-666, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:soecon:v:86:y:2019:i:2:p:638-666
    DOI: 10.1002/soej.12374
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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