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Taxpayer response to an increased probability of audit: Evidence from a controlled experiment in minnesota

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  • Marsha Blumenthal
  • Charles Christian
  • Joel Slemrod

Abstract

In 1995 a group of 1724 randomly selected Minnesota taxpayers was informed by letter that the returns they were about to file would be 'closely examined'. Compared to a control group that did not receive this letter, low and middle-income taxpayers in the treatment group on average increased tax payments compared to the previous year, which we interpret as indicating the presence of noncompliance. The effect was much stronger for those with more opportunity to evade; in fact, the difference in differences is not statistically significant for those who do not have self-employment or farm income, and do not pay estimated tax. Surprisingly, however, the reported tax liability of the high income treatment group fell sharply relative to the control group.

Suggested Citation

  • Marsha Blumenthal & Charles Christian & Joel Slemrod, 2001. "Taxpayer response to an increased probability of audit: Evidence from a controlled experiment in minnesota," Natural Field Experiments 00332, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00332
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Slemrod, Joel, et al, 1997. "April 15 Syndrome," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(4), pages 695-709, October.
    2. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
    3. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1994. " Tax Evasion, Concealment and the Optimal Linear Income Tax," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 96(2), pages 219-239.
    4. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1995. "Assessing the Case for Social Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 85-110, Spring.
    5. Dubin, Jeffrey A. & Graetz, Michael J. & Wilde, Louis L., 1990. "The Effect of Audit Rates on the Federal Individual Income Tax, 1977-1986," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 43(4), pages 395-409, December.
    6. Gary Burtless, 1995. "The Case for Randomized Field Trials in Economic and Policy Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 63-84, Spring.
    7. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1983. "Tax Evasion and Tax Rates: An Analysis of Individual Returns," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(3), pages 363-373, August.
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