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Tax Evasion, Welfare Fraud, and "The Broken Windows" Effect: An Experiment in Belgium, France and the Netherlands


  • Lefèbvre, Mathieu

    () (Université de Strasbourg)

  • Pestieau, Pierre

    () (CREPP, Université de Liège)

  • Riedl, Arno

    () (Maastricht University)

  • Villeval, Marie Claire

    () (CNRS, GATE)


In a series of experiments conducted in Belgium (Wallonia and Flanders), France and the Netherlands, we compare behavior regarding tax evasion and welfare dodging, with and without information about others' behavior. Subjects have to decide between a 'registered' income, the realization of which will be known to the tax authority for sure, and an 'unregistered' income that will only be known with some probability. This unregistered income comes from self-employment in the Tax treatment and from black labor supplementing some unemployment compensation in the Welfare treatment. Subjects have then to decide on whether reporting their income or not, knowing the risk of detection. The results show that (i) individuals evade more in the Welfare treatment than in the Tax treatment; (ii) many subjects choose an option that allows for tax evasion or welfare fraud but report their income honestly anyway; (iii) examples of low compliance tend to increase tax evasion while examples of high compliance exert no influence; (iv) tax evasion is more frequent in France and the Netherlands; Walloons evade taxes less than the Flemish. There is no cross-country difference in welfare dodging.

Suggested Citation

  • Lefèbvre, Mathieu & Pestieau, Pierre & Riedl, Arno & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2011. "Tax Evasion, Welfare Fraud, and "The Broken Windows" Effect: An Experiment in Belgium, France and the Netherlands," IZA Discussion Papers 5609, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5609

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Laws and Norms," NBER Working Papers 17579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Bazart, C. & Bonein, A., 2014. "Reciprocal relationships in tax compliance decisions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 83-102.
    3. Elena Cettolin & Arno Riedl, 2011. "Partial Coercion, Conditional Cooperation, and Self-Commitment in Voluntary Contributions to Public Goods," CESifo Working Paper Series 3556, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Jahnke, Bjoern, 2015. "Tax morale and reciprocity. A case study from Vietnam," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-563, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
    5. Mathieu Lefebvre & Pierre Pestieau & Arno Riedl & Marie Claire Villeval, 2013. "Les attitudes sont-elles différentes face à la fraude fiscale et à la fraude sociale ?," Post-Print halshs-00724736, HAL.
    6. Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Monica Singhal, 2014. "Tax Morale," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 149-168, Fall.
    7. Tan, Fangfang & Yim, Andrew, 2014. "Can strategic uncertainty help deter tax evasion? An experiment on auditing rules," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 161-174.
    8. Pickhardt, Michael & Prinz, Aloys, 2014. "Behavioral dynamics of tax evasion – A survey," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 1-19.
    9. Coricelli, Giorgio & Rusconi, Elena & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2014. "Tax evasion and emotions: An empirical test of re-integrative shaming theory," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 49-61.

    More about this item


    cross-country comparisons; social comparisons; social fraud; tax evasion; experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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