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Tax Compliance as a Social Norm and the Deterrent Effect of Investigations

  • Marisa Ratto
  • Richard Thomas
  • David Ulph


In this paper we focus on the effects of investigations on tax compliance. In a very general model we explain the direct and indirect effects of investigations and analyse taxpayers’ response to an increase in the probability of audit when tax compliance is a social norm. We define the different elements that determine the impact of audits on compliance and show that if tax compliance is a social norm in the relevant community there is an additional effect arising because of social norm considerations. The behavioural response of taxpayers to an increase in the audit rate is stronger. Our Findings help explain seemingly contradictory results that emerge from the empirical evidence.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK in its series The Centre for Market and Public Organisation with number 05/127.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:05/127
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  1. Helen V. Tauchen & Ann Dryden Witte & Kurt J. Beron, 1989. "Tax Compliance: An Investigation Using Individual TCMP Data," NBER Working Papers 3078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kirchler, Erich & Maciejovsky, Boris & Schneider, Friedrich, 2003. "Everyday representations of tax avoidance, tax evasion, and tax flight: Do legal differences matter?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 535-553, August.
  3. Orviska, Marta & Hudson, John, 2003. "Tax evasion, civic duty and the law abiding citizen," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 83-102, March.
  4. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1974. "Income tax evasion: A theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 201-202, May.
  5. Charles Christian & Joel Slemrod & Marsha Blumenthal, 2001. "Taxpayer response to an increased probability of audit: Evidence from a controlled experiment in minnesota," Natural Field Experiments 00332, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Reinganum, Jennifer F & Wilde, Louis L, 1991. "Equilibrium Enforcement and Compliance in the Presence of Tax Practitioners," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 163-81, Spring.
  7. Graetz, Michael J & Reinganum, Jennifer F & Wilde, Louis L, 1986. "The Tax Compliance Game: Toward an Interactive Theory of Law Enforcement," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-32, Spring.
  8. Reinganum, Jennifer F. & Wilde, Louis L., 1985. "Income tax compliance in a principal-agent framework," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 1-18, February.
  9. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
  10. Myles, Gareth D. & Naylor, Robin A., 1996. "A model of tax evasion with group conformity and social customs," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 49-66, April.
  11. Akerlof, George A, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of Which Unemployment May be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-75, June.
  12. Torgler, Benno, 2002. " Speaking to Theorists and Searching for Facts: Tax Morale and Tax Compliance in Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(5), pages 657-83, December.
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