Combining the contributions of behavioral economics and other social sciences in understanding taxation and tax reform
This paper extends previous work presented at the SABE/IAREP conference at St Mary’s University, Halifax (James, 2009). In the earlier paper it was shown that conventional economic theory is used to make the case for tax reform but does not always adequately incorporate all the relevant factors. However, an approach based on behavioral economics can make the difference between success and failure. In this paper the contributions of other social sciences are also included. Taxation is a particularly appropriate subject to explore the integration of the social sciences since they have all devoted considerable attention to it. It can be seen that different social sciences suggest a range of variables that might be taken into account in addition to those included in mainstream economics. Other social sciences also offer different methodological approaches and consider the possibility of different outcomes of the fiscal process. The paper concludes that it is not easy to integrate the social sciences in a single approach to the study of tax and tax policy. There may also be the risk of encouraging inappropriate integration - researchers operating outside their expertise can produce results that are not helpful. However, comparing the contribution of behavioral economics with those of the social sciences more generally, it can be seen that behavioral economics can offer a framework within which these areas can be examined. Indeed, it may be a useful channel to add the contributions of other social sciences to mainstream economic research.
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