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Empathy, Sympathy, and Tax Compliance

  • Roberta Calvet


    (Department of Business Management and Communication, Lesley University)

  • James Alm


    (Department of Economics, Tulane University)

This paper examines the effect of "empathy" and "sympathy" on tax compliance. We run a series of laboratory experiments in which we observe the subjects' decisions in a series of one-shot tax compliance games presented at once and with no immediate feedback. Importantly, we employ methods to identify subjects' sympathy, such as the Davis Empathic Concern Scale and questions about frequency of prosocial behaviors; we also use priming in order to promote subjects' empathy. Our results suggest that the presence of sympathy in most cases encourages more tax compliance. Our results also suggest that priming to elicit empathy also has a positive impact on tax compliance. These results support the inclusion of noneconomic factors in the analysis of tax compliance behavior.

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Paper provided by Tulane University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1310.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tul:wpaper:1310
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  1. repec:att:wimass:9610 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Joseph G. Eisenhauer, 2006. "The Shadow Price of Morality," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(3), pages 437-456, Summer.
  3. James Alm & Benno Torgler, 2011. "Do Ethics Matter? Tax Compliance and Morality," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(4), pages 635-651, July.
  4. Giorgio Coricelli & Mateus Joffily & Claude Montmarquette & Marie Villeval, 2010. "Cheating, emotions, and rationality: an experiment on tax evasion," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 226-247, June.
  5. Kim, Youngse, 2003. "Income distribution and equilibrium multiplicity in a stigma-based model of tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(7-8), pages 1591-1616, August.
  6. Myles, Gareth D. & Naylor, Robin A., 1996. "A model of tax evasion with group conformity and social customs," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 49-66, April.
  7. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
  8. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1974. "Income tax evasion: A theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 201-202, May.
  9. Baldry, J. C., 1986. "Tax evasion is not a gamble : A report on two experiments," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 333-335.
  10. Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2004. "Tax Evasion and Social Interactions," CIRANO Working Papers 2004s-61, CIRANO.
  11. Erard, Brian & Feinstein, Jonathan S, 1994. "The Role of Moral Sentiments and Audit Perceptions in Tax Compliance," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 49(Supplemen), pages 70-89.
  12. Cowell,Frank & Gordon,James, 1987. "Unwillingness to pay: Tax evasion and public good provision," Discussion Paper Serie A 142, University of Bonn, Germany.
  13. Alm, James & Torgler, Benno, 2006. "Culture differences and tax morale in the United States and in Europe," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 224-246, April.
  14. Goeree, Jacob K. & Holt, Charles A. & Laury, Susan K., 2002. "Private costs and public benefits: unraveling the effects of altruism and noisy behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 255-276, February.
  15. Traxler, Christian, 2010. "Social norms and conditional cooperative taxpayers," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 89-103, March.
  16. Alm, James & McClelland, Gary H & Schulze, William D, 1999. "Changing the Social Norm of Tax Compliance by Voting," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 141-71.
  17. Gordon, James P. P., 1989. "Individual morality and reputation costs as deterrents to tax evasion," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 797-805, April.
  18. Blumenthal, Marsha & Christian, Charles W. & Slemrod, Joel, 2001. "Do Normative Appeals Affect Tax Compliance? Evidence from a Controlled Experiment in Minnesota," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 1), pages 125-38, March.
  19. 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.
  20. Alm, James & McClelland, Gary H. & Schulze, William D., 1992. "Why do people pay taxes?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 21-38, June.
  21. James Alm & Michael McKee, 1998. "Extending the lessons of laboratory experiments on tax compliance to managerial and decision economics," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4-5), pages 259-275.
  22. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
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