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Endogenous Tax Audits and Taxpayer Assistance Services: Theory and Experiments

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In recent years there has been a sharp rise in the information available to individual income taxpayers, such as through tax preparation software provided by third parties and support available by tax agencies, although the effects of this information on tax reporting is not well understood. Within a setting characterized by an endogenous audit process and taxpayer uncertainty, this study uses theory and laboratory experiments to investigate the effects of taxpayer assistance services that better inform taxpayers about their tax liability and the audit process. The endogenous audit rule we study is simple, yet relative to existing work is more likely to characterize the actual incentives facing taxpayers. Among our findings, and in contrast to the case of purely random audits, in theory the effect of information services on tax underreporting is ambiguous, and we find support empirically for increased tax underreporting even in a setting where theory predicts the opposite. When services provide better information on both liability and the audit process, audit information is more salient to participants, negating the strong effects observed when only liability information is provided.

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File URL: http://web.utk.edu/~jhollad3/RePEc/2017-01.pdf
File Function: First version, 2017
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Paper provided by University of Tennessee, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2017-01.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2017
Handle: RePEc:ten:wpaper:2017-01
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Web page: http://econ.bus.utk.edu/
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  1. Brian Erard & Chih-Chin Ho, 1999. "Searching for Ghosts: Who Are the Nonfilers nd How Much Tax Do They Owe?," Carleton Economic Papers 99-11, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2001.
  2. David Gill & Victoria Prowse, 2012. "A Structural Analysis of Disappointment Aversion in a Real Effort Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 469-503, February.
  3. Alm, James & Cronshaw, Mark B & McKee, Michael, 1993. "Tax Compliance with Endogenous Audit Selection Rules," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(1), pages 27-45.
  4. Erard, Brian & Ho, Chih-Chin, 2001. "Searching for ghosts: who are the nonfilers and how much tax do they owe?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 25-50, July.
  5. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  6. Timothy N. Cason & Lata Gangadharan, 2006. "An Experimental Study of Compliance and Leverage in Auditing and Regulatory Enforcement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(2), pages 352-366, April.
  7. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
  8. Jeremy Clark & Lana Friesen & Andrew Muller, 2004. "The Good, the Bad, and the Regulator: An Experimental Test of Two Conditional Audit Schemes," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(1), pages 69-87, January.
  9. James Alm, 2012. "Measuring, explaining, and controlling tax evasion: lessons from theory, experiments, and field studies," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 19(1), pages 54-77, February.
  10. Cason, Timothy N. & Friesen, Lana & Gangadharan, Lata, 2016. "Regulatory performance of audit tournaments and compliance observability," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 288-306.
  11. Alm, James & McKee, Michael, 2004. "Tax compliance as a coordination game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 297-312, July.
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