IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this book chapter

Amnesty, Enforcement, and Tax Policy

In: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 1


  • Herman B. Leonard
  • Richard J. Zeckhauser


Amnesties are widely used in society to rehabilitate past sinners, to collect resources, such as library books, that would otherwise be unrecoverable, and to make enforcement easier by reducing the ranks of delinquents. Over the past four years, tax amnesties have emerged as a major instrument of state revenue policy. Twenty states conducted amnesties. Record collections were made by New York ($360 million) and Illinois (income tax amnesty dollars 3.4% of collections). Amnesties took in dollars that would probably have escaped otherwise, and tax rolls were bolstered. Tax amnesties also have costs, however. They may anger honest taxpayers, diminish the legitimacy of the tax system by pardoning past evasion, and decrease compliance by making future amnesties seem more likely. Shou1.d the federal government, aswirl in tax reform and suffering from an estimated $100 billion tax evasion problem, now offer an amnesty of its own? What type of federal program would most likely be offered? What would it be likely to accomplish? State tax amnesties have generally bean coupled with enhanced enforcement efforts, a feature intended to preserve the legitimacy of the tan system. The amnesty/enforcement combination twists the penalty schedule, lowering it non raising it later, in that way encouraging prompt payment. With no past sins to hide, future compliance also becomes less costly, hence more probable. Any federal amnesty, we predict, would be accompanied by a strengthening of enforcement. After reviewing the state experience, we speculatively estimate that a federal amnesty/enforcement to annual revenues on the order of $10 billion.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Herman B. Leonard & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1987. "Amnesty, Enforcement, and Tax Policy," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, pages 55-86 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10929

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Bruno Chiarini & Marco Di Domizio & Elisabetta Marzano, 2009. "Why Do Underground Reducing Policies Often Fail Their Scope? Some Answers From The Italian Experience," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(2), pages 308-318, July.
    2. Bayer, Ralph-C. & Oberhofer, Harald & Winner, Hannes, 2015. "The occurrence of tax amnesties: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 70-82.
    3. James Alm, 1998. "Tax Policy Analysis: The Introduction of a Russian Tax Amnesty," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper9806, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    4. Julio López Laborda & Fernando Rodrigo Sauco, 2002. "El análisis económico de las amnistías fiscales: ¿Qué hemos aprendido hasta ahora?," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 163(4), pages 121-153, December.
    5. Nicolas Marceau & Steeve Mongrain, 2000. "Amnesties and Co-operation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 7(3), pages 259-273, May.
    6. Heiner Schmittdiel, 2015. "Voluntary Disclosure Programs for Tax Evaders," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-128/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    7. E. Bruce Hutchinson & J. R. Clark, 2004. "The Laffer Curve for Amnesty," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 20(Fall 2004), pages 9-29.
    8. Eric Le Borgne, 2006. "Economic and Political Determinants of Tax Amnesties in the U.S. States," IMF Working Papers 06/222, International Monetary Fund.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10929. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: () or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.