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Does an Uncertain Tax System Encourage "Aggressive Tax Planning"?

Listed author(s):
  • James Alm

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Tulane University)

"Aggressive tax planning" (ATP) is typically characterized as a tax scheme that reduces the effective tax rate of a particular type of income to a level below the one sought by fiscal policy for this income. One motivation often suggested for its use is the uncertainty in tax liabilities introduced by a complicated and ever changing tax system. In this paper, I examine the impact of an uncertainty on the use of such tax schemes; by implication, I also examine how a simpler and more stable tax system that reduced this uncertainty might affect ATP. In this analysis, I draw upon some of my own work on tax avoidance and tax evasion, and then I extend this work to the related but separate area of ATP. Importantly, I introduce and model both individual and group motivations, incorporating insights from behavioral economics in these new analyses. Taxpayers are clearly motivated in part by narrowly defined financial considerations as shaped by the tax, audit, and penalty rates that they face, all of which I classify as individual motivations. However, individuals are also often influenced by many other factors that go beyond self-interest and that have as their main foundation some aspects of social norms, morality, altruism, fairness, or the like. In their entirety, I lump these factors together as group motivations, and I argue that they are shaped by the dynamic social context in which, and the process by which, decisions emerge. My main conclusion is that there is much in theory to suggest that uncertainty leads to more use of ATP, especially when both individual and group motivations are considered.

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File URL: http://econ.tulane.edu/RePEc/pdf/tul1403.pdf
File Function: First Version, February 2014
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Paper provided by Tulane University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1403.

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Date of creation: Feb 2014
Handle: RePEc:tul:wpaper:1403
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  2. Alm, James & Cherry, Todd & Jones, Michael & McKee, Michael, 2010. "Taxpayer information assistance services and tax compliance behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 577-586, August.
  3. Kirchler,Erich, 2007. "The Economic Psychology of Tax Behaviour," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521876742, November.
  4. 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.
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  7. Stephan Muehlbacher & Erich Kirchler & Herbert Schwarzenberger, 2011. "Voluntary versus enforced tax compliance: empirical evidence for the “slippery slope” framework," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 89-97, August.
  8. Lars P. Feld & Bruno S. Frey, 2002. "Trust breeds trust: How taxpayers are treated," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 87-99, 07.
  9. 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.
  10. Erard, Brian, 1993. "Taxation with representation : An analysis of the role of tax practitioners in tax compliance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 163-197, September.
  11. Reinganum, Jennifer F & Wilde, Louis L, 1991. "Equilibrium Enforcement and Compliance in the Presence of Tax Practitioners," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 163-181, Spring.
  12. Calvet Christian, Roberta & Alm, James, 2014. "Empathy, sympathy, and tax compliance," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 62-82.
  13. Joel Slemrod, 1989. "The Return To Tax Simplification: an Econometric Analysis," Public Finance Review, , vol. 17(1), pages 3-27, January.
  14. 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.
  15. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1970. "Increasing risk: I. A definition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 225-243, September.
  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 141-171.
  17. Benno Torgler & Markus Schaffner & Alison Macintyre, 2007. "Tax Compliance, Tax Morale And Governance Quality," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series 225, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
  18. Weiss, Laurence, 1976. "The Desirability of Cheating Incentives and Randomness in the Optimal Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1343-1352, December.
  19. Alm, James & Jackson, Betty & McKee, Michael, 1992. "Institutional Uncertainty and Taxpayer Compliance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 1018-1026, September.
  20. James Alm & Benno Torgler, 2011. "Do Ethics Matter? Tax Compliance and Morality," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(4), pages 635-651, July.
  21. Alm, James, 1988. "Uncertain Tax Policies, Individual Behavior, and Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(1), pages 237-245, March.
  22. Benno Torgler, 2007. "Tax Compliance and Tax Morale," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 4096, July.
  23. James Alm & Erich Kirchler & Stephan Muehlbacher, 2012. "Combining Psychology and Economics in the Analysis of Compliance: From Enforcement to Cooperation," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 133-152, September.
  24. Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1994. "The Role of Moral Sentiments and Audit Perceptions in Tax Compliance," Carleton Industrial Organization Research Unit (CIORU) 94-03, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
  25. Nigar Hashimzade & Gareth D. Myles & Binh Tran-Nam, 2013. "Applications Of Behavioural Economics To Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(5), pages 941-977, December.
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