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Optimal Fines and Auditing When Wealth is Costly to Observe

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  • A. Mitchell Polinsky

Abstract

This article studies optimal fines when an offender's wealth is private information that can be obtained by the enforcement authority only after a costly audit. I derive the optimal fine for the underlying offense, the optimal fine for misrepresenting one's wealth level, and the optimal audit probability. I demonstrate that the optimal fine for misrepresenting wealth equals the fine for the offense divided by the audit probability, and therefore generally exceeds the fine for the offense. The optimal audit probability is positive, increases as the cost of an audit declines, and equals unity if the cost is sufficiently low. If the optimal audit probability is less than unity, there are some individuals who are capable of paying the fine for the offense who misrepresent their wealth levels. I also show that the optimal fine for the offense results in underdeterrence due to the cost of auditing wealth levels.

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  • A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2004. "Optimal Fines and Auditing When Wealth is Costly to Observe," NBER Working Papers 10760, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10760
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    1. Garoupa, Nuno, 1998. "Optimal Law Enforcement and Imperfect Information When Wealth Varies among Individuals," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(260), pages 479-490, November.
    2. Polinsky, A. Mitchell, 2006. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment when wealth is unobservable," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 823-835, May.
    3. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Optimal Law Enforcement with Self-Reporting of Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 583-606, June.
    4. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1991. "A Note on Optimal Fines When Wealth Varies among Individuals," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 618-621, June.
    5. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
    6. Chu, C. Y. Cyrus & Jiang, Neville, 1993. "Are fines more efficient than imprisonment?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 391-413, July.
    7. Levitt, Steven D., 1997. "Incentive compatibility constraints as an explanation for the use of prison sentences instead of fines," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 179-192, June.
    8. Cyrus Chu, C. Y. & Qian, Yingyi, 1995. "Vicarious liability under a negligence rule," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 305-322, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Growitsch & Nicole Nulsch & Margarethe Rammerstorfer, 2012. "Preventing innovative cooperations: the legal exemptions unintended side effect," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 1-22, February.
    2. Kangoh Lee, 2017. "Norms and monetary fines as deterrents, and distributive effects," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 121(1), pages 1-27, May.
    3. Polinsky, A. Mitchell, 2006. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment when wealth is unobservable," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 823-835, May.
    4. Hsiao-Chi Chen & Shi-Miin Liu, 2007. "Dynamic Incentive Contracts in Multiple Penalty Systems with No-commitment to Tenure-track Auditing," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 90(3), pages 255-294, April.
    5. Motta, Alberto & Burlando, Alfredo, 2007. "Self reporting reduces corruption in law enforcement," MPRA Paper 5332, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 23 Jun 2007.
    6. Rodrigues-Neto, José A., 2014. "On corruption, bribes and the exchange of favors," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 152-162.
    7. Jos� A. Rodrigues-Neto, 2009. "Sex, Money and Corruption," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2009-500, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.

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