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Decentralized Deterrence, with an Application to Labor Tax Auditing

  • Di Porto, Edoardo
  • Persico, Nicola
  • Sahuguet, Nicolas

Deterrence of illegal activities is frequently carried out by many atomistic auditors (tax auditors, law enforcement agents, etc.). Not much is known either normatively about the best way to incentivize atomistic auditors, nor positively about what these incentives actually look like in real world organizations. This paper focuses almost exclusively on the positive question. It proposes a game-theoretic model of decentralized deterrence and an empirical test, based on the equilibrium of the model, to identify the incentives of individual auditors. In the special (but important) case of tax enforcement, the paper fully characterizes the equilibrium of a strategic auditing game and provides a method to calibrate its parameters based on audit data. Applying the model and method to Italian auditing data provides ‘proof of concept’: the methods are practical and tractable. We are able to provide an estimate of tax evasion based on (non-random) audit data alone. Counterfactual simulation of the model quantifies the costs and benefits of alternative auditing policies. We compare decentralized enforcement with a counterfactual commitment policy, and compute the loss from the former. Thus we are able to quantify the costs of decentralizing enforcement.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8901.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8901
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  1. Chander, Parkash & Wilde, Louis L, 1998. "A General Characterization of Optimal Income Tax Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(1), pages 165-83, January.
  2. Shamena Anwar & Hanming Fang, 2004. "An Alternative Test of Racial Prejudice in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1464, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Parkash Chander, 1998. "A Stronger Measure of Risk Aversion and a General Characterization of Optimal Income Tax Enforcement," Economics Working Paper Archive 399, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  5. Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1993. "Honesty and Evasion in the Tax Compliance Game," Carleton Economic Papers 93-06, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised 1994.
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