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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, Clement
  • Spinnewijn, Johannes
  • Tsankova, Teodora
  • Luts, Maarten

Abstract

We study the impact of simplification, deterrence and tax morale on tax compliance. We ran four natural field experiments varying the communication of the tax administration with the universe of income taxpayers in Belgium throughout the tax process. A consistent picture emerges across experiments: (i) simplifying communi- cation substantially increases compliance, (ii) deterrence messages have an additional positive effect, (iii) invoking tax morale is not effective, and often backfires. A discon- tinuity in enforcement intensity, combined with the experimental variation, allows us to compare simplification with standard enforcement measures. We find that simpli- fication is far more cost-effective, allowing for substantial savings on enforcement costs.

Suggested Citation

  • De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel & Imbert, Clement & Spinnewijn, Johannes & Tsankova, Teodora & Luts, Maarten, 2021. "How to improve tax compliance? Evidence from population-wide experiments in Belgium," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 106265, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:106265
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    tax compliance; field experiments; simplification; enforcement;
    All these keywords.

    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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