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Why Do People Pay Taxes? An Explanation Based On Loss Aversion And Overweighting of Low Probabilities

Author

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  • Sanjit Dhami
  • Ali al-Nowaihi

    ()

Abstract

Given actual probabilities of audit and penalty rates observed in the real world, tax evasion should be an extremely attractive gamble to an expected utility maximizer. However, in practice, one observes too much compliance relative to the predictions of expected utility. This paper considers an alternative theoretical model that is based on Kahneman and Tversky's cumulative prospect theory. The model predicts empirically plausible magnitudes of tax evasion despite low audit probabilities and penalty rates. An increase in the tax rate leads to an increase in the amount evaded- a result, which is both, intuitive, and factual, but is contrary to the prediction made by expected utility theory. Furthermore, the optimal tax rates predicted by prospect theory, in the presence of tax evasion behaviour, are consistent with actual tax rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Sanjit Dhami & Ali al-Nowaihi, 2003. "Why Do People Pay Taxes? An Explanation Based On Loss Aversion And Overweighting of Low Probabilities," Discussion Papers in Economics 03/18, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  • Handle: RePEc:lec:leecon:03/18
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    File URL: http://www.le.ac.uk/economics/research/RePEc/lec/leecon/dp03-18.pdf
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax Evasion; Loss Aversion; Decision Weights; Prospect Theory; Optimal taxation;

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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