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How to Improve Tax Compliance? Evidence from Population-wide Experiments in Belgium

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  • De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel
  • Imbert, Clément
  • Luts, Maarten
  • Spinnewijn, Johannes
  • Tsankova, Teodora

Abstract

We study the impact of deterrence, tax morale, and simplifying information on tax compliance. We ran five experiments spanning the tax process which varied the communication of the tax administration with all income taxpayers in Belgium. A consistent picture emerges across experiments: (i) simplifying communication increases compliance, (ii) deterrence messages have an additional positive effect, (iii) invoking tax morale is not effective. Even tax morale messages that improve knowledge and appreciation of public services do not raise compliance. In fact, heterogeneity analysis with causal forests shows that tax morale treatments backfire for most taxpayers. In contrast, simplification has large positive effects on compliance, which diminish over time due to follow-up enforcement. A discontinuity in enforcement intensity, combined with the experimental variation, allows us to compare simplification with standard enforcement measures. Simplification is far more cost-effective, allowing for substantial savings on enforcement costs, and also improves compliance in the next tax cycle.

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  • De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel & Imbert, Clément & Luts, Maarten & Spinnewijn, Johannes & Tsankova, Teodora, 2019. "How to Improve Tax Compliance? Evidence from Population-wide Experiments in Belgium," CEPR Discussion Papers 13733, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:13733
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    4. Justin E. Holz & John A. List & Alejandro Zentner & Marvin Cardoza & Joaquin Zentner, 2020. "The $100 Million Nudge: Increasing Tax Compliance of Businesses and the Self-Employed using a Natural Field Experiment," Working Papers 2020-113, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
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    8. Blesse, Sebastian, 2021. "Are your tax problems an opportunity not to pay taxes? Evidence from a randomized survey experiment," ZEW Discussion Papers 21-040, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
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    11. Advani, Arun, 2020. "Who does and doesn’t pay taxes?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1321, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    12. Hoy, Christopher & McKenzie, Luke & Sinning, Mathias, 2020. "Improving Tax Compliance without Increasing Revenue: Evidence from Population-Wide Randomized Controlled Trials in Papua New Guinea," IZA Discussion Papers 13407, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
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    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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