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Testing Enforcement Strategies in the Field: Legal Threat, Moral Appeal and Social Information

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  • Gerlinde Fellner
  • Rupert Sausgruber
  • Christian Traxler

Abstract

We run a large-scale natural field experiment to evaluate alternative strategies to enforce compliance with the law. The experiment varies the text of mailings sent to potential evaders of TV license fees. We find a strong alert effect of mailings, leading to a substantial increase in compliance. Among different mailing conditions a legal threat that stresses a high detection risk has a significant and highly robust deterrent effect. Neither appealing to morals nor imparting information about others’ behavior enhances compliance. However, the information condition has a positive effect in municipalities where evasion is believed to be common. Overall, the economic model of crime performs remarkably well in explaining our data.

Suggested Citation

  • Gerlinde Fellner & Rupert Sausgruber & Christian Traxler, 2009. "Testing Enforcement Strategies in the Field: Legal Threat, Moral Appeal and Social Information," CESifo Working Paper Series 2787, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2787
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    Cited by:

    1. Traxler, Christian, 2010. "Social norms and conditional cooperative taxpayers," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 89-103, March.
    2. Apesteguia, Jose & Funk, Patricia & Iriberri, Nagore, 2013. "Promoting rule compliance in daily-life: Evidence from a randomized field experiment in the public libraries of Barcelona," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 266-284.
    3. Egebark, Johan & Ekström, Mathias, 2016. "Can indifference make the world greener?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1-13.
    4. Annette Alstadsæter & Martin Jacob, 2013. "The Effect of Awareness and Incentives on Tax Evasion," CESifo Working Paper Series 4369, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Jing Cai & Alain De Janvry & Elisabeth Sadoulet, 2015. "Social Networks and the Decision to Insure," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 81-108, April.
    6. Carlo Fiorio & Stefano Iacus & Alessandro Santoro, 2013. "Taxpaying response of small firms to an increased probability of audit: some evidence from Italy," Working Papers 251, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2013.
    7. Henrik J. Kleven & Martin B. Knudsen & Claus T. Kreiner & Søren Pedersen & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Unwilling or Unable to Cheat? Evidence from a Randomized Tax Audit Experiment in Denmark," NBER Working Papers 15769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Dina Pomeranz, 2015. "No Taxation without Information: Deterrence and Self-Enforcement in the Value Added Tax," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(8), pages 2539-2569, August.
    9. Joel Slemrod & Caroline Weber, 2012. "Evidence of the invisible: toward a credibility revolution in the empirical analysis of tax evasion and the informal economy," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 19(1), pages 25-53, February.
    10. Sebastian Eichfelder & Chantal Kegels, 2012. "Compliance costs caused by agency action? Empirical evidence and implications for tax compliance," Schumpeter Discussion Papers sdp12005, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.
    11. Claudio Agostini & Claudia Martinez, 2013. "Tax Credits Response to Tax Enforcement: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment in Chile," Working Papers wp_029, Adolfo Ibáñez University, School of Government.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    field experiments; law enforcement; compliance; deterrence;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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