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Trust in Public Finance

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  • Joel Slemrod

Abstract

Using data on trust and trustworthiness from the 1990 wave of the World Values Survey, I first investigate a model of the extent of tax cheating and the size of government that recognizes the interdependence of the two. The results reveal that tax cheating is lower in countries that exhibit more (not-government-related) trustworthiness. However, holding that constant, tax cheating becomes more acceptable as government grows. All in all, there is some weak evidence that the strong positive cross-country correlation between the size of government and tax cheating masks the fact that big government induces tax cheating while, at the same time, tax cheating constrains big government. I then add to the structural model an equation determining the level of prosperity, allowing prosperity to depend, inter alia, on the level of government and on trust in others. I find some evidence that both prosperity and government involvement are higher in more trusting societies. Moreover, holding these measures of trust constant, the association of government size with prosperity is positive until a level of government spending somewhere between 31% and 38% of GDP, after which its marginal effect is negative. Thus, although a trusting citizenry allows larger government, the tax burden this entails erodes the rule obedience taxpayers exhibit toward government.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Slemrod, 2002. "Trust in Public Finance," NBER Working Papers 9187, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9187
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Feld, Lars P. & Torgler, Benno, 2007. "Tax Morale after the Reunification of Germany: Results from a Quasi-Natural Experiment," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt3qr87655, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    2. Odd-Helge Fjeldstad, 2005. "Corruption in Tax Administration: Lessons from Institutional Reforms in Uganda," CMI Working Papers WP 2005: 10, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
    3. Odd-Helge Fjeldstad, 2004. "To pay or not to pay? Citizens' views on taxation in local authorities in Tanzania," CMI Working Papers WP 2004: 8, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
    4. Brown, Jeffrey R. & Ivković, Zoran & Weisbenner, Scott, 2015. "Empirical determinants of intertemporal choice," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(3), pages 473-486.
    5. Slemrod, Joel, 2004. "The Economics of Corporate Tax Selfishness," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(4), pages 877-899, December.
    6. Torgler, Benno & Demir, Ihsan C. & Macintyre, Alison & Schaffner, Markus, 2008. "Causes and Consequences of Tax Morale: An Empirical Investigation," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 313-339, September.
    7. Benno Torgler & Friedrich Schneider & Christoph Schaltegger, 2010. "Local autonomy, tax morale, and the shadow economy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 144(1), pages 293-321, July.
    8. Benno Torgler & María A.García-Valiñas & Alison Macintyre, 2007. "Differences in Preferences Towards the Environment: The Impact of a Gender, Age and Parental Effect," CREMA Working Paper Series 2008-01, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    9. Benno Torgler, 2003. "Tax Morale in Transition Countries," Post-Communist Economies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(3), pages 357-381.
    10. repec:bec:imsber:v:9:y:2017:i:3:p:258-288 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Guglielmo Barone & Sauro Mocetti, 2011. "Tax morale and public spending inefficiency," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 18(6), pages 724-749, December.
    12. Lars P. Feld & Benno Torgler & Bin Dong, 2008. "Coming Closer? Tax Morale, Deterrence and Social Learning after German Unification," CREMA Working Paper Series 2008-09, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    13. Odd-Helge Fjeldstad, 2003. "What has trust got to do with it? Non-payment of service charges in local authorities in South Africa," CMI Working Papers WP 2003:12, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
    14. Paolo Pinotti, 2009. "Trust and Regulation: Addressing a Cultural Bias," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 721, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    15. Benno Torgler & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2005. "Trust and Fiscal Performance: A Panel Analysis with Swiss Data," Working Papers 2005.61, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    16. Benno Torgler & Maria A. Garcia-Valinas & Alison Macintyre, 2012. "Justifiability of Littering: An Empirical Investigation," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 21(2), pages 209-231, May.
    17. repec:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:13-24 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Matsaganis, Manos & Benedek, Dóra & Flevotomou, Maria & Lelkes, Orsolya & Mantovani, Daniela & Nienadowska, Sylwia, 2010. "Distributional implications of income tax evasion in Greece, Hungary and Italy," MPRA Paper 21465, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Torgler, Benno, 2004. "Tax morale in Asian countries," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 237-266, April.
    20. Benno Torgler & James Alm & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez, 2005. "Russian Attitudes Toward Paying Taxes – Before, During, and After the Transition (2005)," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0518, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    21. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2007. "Direkte Demokratie, Steuermoral und Steuerhinterziehung: Erfahrungen aus der Schweiz," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 8(1), pages 38-64, January.
    22. Tsikas, Stefanos A., 2017. "Enforce Tax Compliance, but Cautiously: The Role of Trust in Authorities and Power of Authorities," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-589, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
    23. Wilfried Anicet Kouamé, 2015. "Tax Morale and Trust in Public Institutions," Cahiers de recherche 15-14, Departement d'Economique de l'École de gestion à l'Université de Sherbrooke, revised Oct 2017.
    24. García-Valiñas, María A. & Macintyre, Alison & Torgler, Benno, 2012. "Volunteering, pro-environmental attitudes and norms," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 455-467.

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    JEL classification:

    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • P10 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - General

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