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When You Know Your Neighbor Pays Taxes: Information, Peer Effects, and Tax Compliance

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  • James Alm
  • Kim M. Bloomquist
  • Michael McKee

Abstract

In this paper, we argue that individuals are affected in their compliance behavior by the behavior of their “neighbors”, or those about whom they may have information, whom they may know, or with whom they may interact on a regular basis. Individuals seem more likely to file and to report their taxes when they believe that other individuals are also filing and reporting their taxes; conversely, when individuals believe that others are cheating on their taxes, they may well become cheaters themselves. We use experimental methods to test the role of such information about peer effects on compliance behavior. In one setting, we inform individuals about the frequency that their neighbors submit a tax return. In a second setting, we inform them about the number of their neighbors who are audited, together with the penalties that they pay. In both cases, we examine the impact of information on filing behavior and also on subsequent reporting behavior. We find that providing information on whether one’s neighbors are filing returns and/or reporting income has a statistically significant and economically large impact on individual filing and reporting decisions. However, this “neighbor” information does not always improve compliance, depending on the exact content of the information. Key Words: Tax evasion; Tax compliance; Behavioral economics; Experimental economics

Suggested Citation

  • James Alm & Kim M. Bloomquist & Michael McKee, 2013. "When You Know Your Neighbor Pays Taxes: Information, Peer Effects, and Tax Compliance," Working Papers 13-22, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
  • Handle: RePEc:apl:wpaper:13-22
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kandul, Serhiy & Uhl, Matthias, 2016. "Inspirations or incitements? Ethical mind-sets and the effect of moral examples," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 146-153.
    2. Litina, Anastasia & Palivos, Theodore, 2016. "Corruption, tax evasion and social values," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 164-177.
    3. Alm, James & Bruner, David M. & McKee, Michael, 2016. "Honesty or dishonesty of taxpayer communications in an enforcement regime," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, pages 85-96.
    4. Hallsworth, Michael & List, John A. & Metcalfe, Robert D. & Vlaev, Ivo, 2017. "The behavioralist as tax collector: Using natural field experiments to enhance tax compliance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 14-31.
    5. James Alm & Carolyn J. Bourdeaux, 2013. "Applying Behavioral Economics to the Public Sector," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, pages 91-134.
    6. Alm, James, 2018. "Is Economics Useful for Public Policy?," Working Paper Series 6824, Victoria University of Wellington, Chair in Public Finance.
    7. James Alm & Carolyn J. Bourdeaux, 2013. "Applying Behavioral Economics to the Public Sector," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, pages 91-134.
    8. Athanasoglou, Panayiotis, 2011. "The role of product variety and quality and of domestic supply in foreign trade," MPRA Paper 32034, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. International Monetary Fund, 2016. "Albania; Selected Issues," IMF Staff Country Reports 16/143, International Monetary Fund.
    10. James Alm, 2017. "Is Economics Useful for Public Policy?," Working Papers 1702, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    11. Gloria Alarcón García & José Daniel Buendía Azorín & María del Mar Sánchez Vega, 2016. "El rechazo al fraude fiscal en España: antes y después de la Gran crisis," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, pages 33-56.
    12. James Alm, 2014. "Expanding the theory of tax compliance from individual to group motivations," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Alternative Theories of Public Economics, chapter 12, pages 260-277 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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