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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Di Porto, Edoardo & Persico, Nicola & Sahuguet, Nicolas, 2012. "Decentralized Deterrence, with an Application to Labor Tax Auditing," CEPR Discussion Papers 8901, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8901

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Shamena Anwar & Hanming Fang, 2006. "An Alternative Test of Racial Prejudice in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 127-151, March.
    3. Parkash Chander & Louis L. Wilde, 1998. "A General Characterization of Optimal Income Tax Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(1), pages 165-183.
    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 S. Feinstein, 1994. "Honesty and Evasion in the Tax Compliance Game," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(1), pages 1-19, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:poleco:v:49:y:2017:i:c:p:71-83 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Levine, David K. & Modica, Salvatore, 2016. "Peer discipline and incentives within groups," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 19-30.
    3. Edoardo Di Porto & Leandro Elia & Cristina Tealdi, 2013. "The "emersion" effect: an ex post and ex ante social program evaluation on labor tax evasion in Italy," Working Papers 2/2013, IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca, revised Jun 2013.
    4. David K Levine & Salvatore Modica, 2014. "Peer Discipline and Incentives Within Groups," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000973, David K. Levine.
    5. David K Levine & Salvatore Modica, 2013. "Peer Discipline and the Strength of Organizations," Levine's Bibliography 786969000000000713, UCLA Department of Economics.
    6. David K Levine & Salvatore Modica, 2016. "Size, Fungibility, and the Strength of Lobbying Organizations," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000001316, David K. Levine.
    7. repec:oup:oxecpp:v:69:y:2017:i:1:p:143-164. is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    audits; deterrence; tax evasion;

    JEL classification:

    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • H83 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - Public Administration
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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