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Searching for Ghosts: Who Are the Nonfilers nd How Much Tax Do They Owe?

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This paper is about "ghosts" - individuals who fail to comply with their income tax filing requirements. As their name suggests, the identities and characteristics of these individuals are shrouded in mystery. In this paper we attempt to de-mystify the issues surrounding ghosts and examine their role in the compliance process. We begin by extending a standard model of tax evasion to account for the existence of ghosts. We then examine the empirical significance and policy relevance of our extension using a unique data set containing detailed tax and audit information for both filers and non-filers of U.S.federal income tax returns.

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  • Brian Erard & Chih-Chin Ho, 1999. "Searching for Ghosts: Who Are the Nonfilers nd How Much Tax Do They Owe?," Carleton Economic Papers 99-11, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2001.
  • Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:99-11
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    1. Frank A. Cowell, 1990. "Cheating the Government: The Economics of Evasion," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262532484, September.
    2. Alm, James & Bahl, Roy & Murray, Matthew N, 1991. "Tax Base Erosion in Developing Countries," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(4), pages 849-872, July.
    3. Cross, Rodney & Shaw, G K, 1982. "On the Economics of Tax Aversion," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 37(1), pages 36-47.
    4. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1974. "Income tax evasion: A theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 201-202, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tan, Fangfang & Yim, Andrew, 2014. "Can strategic uncertainty help deter tax evasion? An experiment on auditing rules," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 161-174.
    2. Marisa Ratto & Richard Thomas & David Ulph, 2013. "The Indirect Effects of Auditing Taxpayers," Public Finance Review, , vol. 41(3), pages 317-333, May.
    3. James Alm & Jeremy Clark & Kara Leibel, 2016. "Enforcement, Socioeconomic Diversity, and Tax Filing Compliance in the United States," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 725-747, January.
    4. Katharina Gangl & Erich Kirchler & Christian Lorenz & Benno Torgler, 2015. "Wealthy Tax Non-Filers in a Developing Nation: The Roles of Taxpayer Knowledge, Perceived Corruption and Service Orientation in Pakistan," CREMA Working Paper Series 2015-08, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    5. James Alm & Kyle Borders, 2014. "Estimating the “Tax Gap” at the State Level: The Case of Georgia's Personal Income Tax," Public Budgeting & Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(4), pages 61-79, December.
    6. James Alm & Kim M. Bloomquist & Michael McKee, 2017. "When You Know Your Neighbour Pays Taxes: Information, Peer Effects and Tax Compliance," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 38, pages 587-613, December.
    7. Ravi Kanbur & Michael Keen, 2014. "Thresholds, informality, and partitions of compliance," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(4), pages 536-559, August.
    8. Christian A. Vossler & Scott M. Gilpatric, 2017. "Endogenous Tax Audits and Taxpayer Assistance Services: Theory and Experiments," Working Papers 2017-01, University of Tennessee, Department of Economics.
    9. Brian Erard and Chih-Chin Ho, 2003. "Mapping the Compliance Continuum: From Pathologically Honest to Flagrantly Defiant," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0319, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    10. Sara Torregrosa, 2015. "Bypassing progressive taxation: fraud and base erosion in the Spanish income tax (1970-2001)," Working Papers 2015/31, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    11. Alm, James & Cherry, Todd L. & Jones, Michael & McKee, Michael, 2012. "Social programs as positive inducements for tax participation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 85-96.
    12. R.Kavita Rao & Suranjali Tandon, 2016. "Revisiting the Tax Compliance Problem using Prospect Theory," Working Papers id:11225, eSocialSciences.
    13. James Alm, 2019. "What Motivates Tax Compliance?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 353-388, April.
    14. Lindsay Tedds, 2010. "Keeping it off the books: an empirical investigation of firms that engage in tax evasion," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(19), pages 2459-2473.
    15. Figari, Francesco & Paulus, Alari & Sutherland, Holly, 2014. "Microsimulation and policy analysis," ISER Working Paper Series 2014-23, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    16. Meiselman, Ben S., 2018. "Ghostbusting in Detroit: Evidence on nonfilers from a controlled field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 180-193.
    17. Christian A. Vossler & Michael McKee, 2017. "Efficient Tax Reporting: The Effects Of Taxpayer Liability Information Services," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(2), pages 920-940, April.
    18. James Alm & Kim M. Bloomquist & Michael McKee, 2015. "On The External Validity Of Laboratory Tax Compliance Experiments," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(2), pages 1170-1186, April.
    19. Christian A. Vossler & Michael McKee, 2013. "Efficient tax reporting: The effects of taxpayer information services," Working Papers 13-24, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
    20. Scott B. Jackson & Paul A. Shoemaker & John A. Barrick & F. Greg Burton, 2005. "Taxpayers' Prepayment Positions and Tax Return Preparation Fees," Contemporary Accounting Research, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 22(2), pages 409-447, June.
    21. Michael Keen, 2012. "Taxation and Development; Again," IMF Working Papers 12/220, International Monetary Fund.
    22. James Alm & Matthias Kasper, 2020. "Laboratory Experiments," Working Papers 2008, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
    23. Rao, R. Kavita & Tandon, Suranjali, 2016. "Revisiting the tax compliance problem using prospect theory," Working Papers 16/169, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
    24. Benno Torgler, 2004. "Moral Suasion: An alternative tax policy strategy? Evidence from a controlled field experiment in Switzerland," CREMA Working Paper Series 2004-01, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).

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