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How to Improve Tax Compliance? Evidence from Population-wide Experiments in Belgium

Author

Listed:
  • De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel

    (University of Oxford)

  • Imbert, Clement

    (University of Warwick)

  • Spinnewijn, Johannes

    (London School of Economics)

  • Tsankova, Teodora

    (University of Warwick)

  • Luts, Maarten

    (FPS Finance)

Abstract

We study the impact of deterrence, tax morale, and simplifying information on tax compliance. We ran five experiments spanning the tax process which varied the communication of the tax administration with all income taxpayers in Belgium. A consistent picture emerges across experiments: (i) simplifying communication increases compliance, (ii) deterrence messages have an additional positive effect, (iii) invoking tax morale is not effective. Even tax morale messages that improve knowledge and appreciation of public services do not raise compliance. In fact, heterogeneity analysis with causal forests shows that tax morale treatments backfire for most taxpayers. In contrast, simplification has large positive effects on compliance, which diminish over time due to follow-up enforcement. A discontinuity in enforcement intensity, combined with the experimental variation, allows us to compare simplification with standard enforcement measures. Simplification is far more cost-effective, allowing for substantial savings on enforcement costs, and also improves compliance in the next tax cycle

Suggested Citation

  • De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel & Imbert, Clement & Spinnewijn, Johannes & Tsankova, Teodora & Luts, Maarten, 2019. "How to Improve Tax Compliance? Evidence from Population-wide Experiments in Belgium," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1194, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:1194
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    Cited by:

    1. Marvin Cardoza & Justin Holz & John List & Joaquin Zentner & Alejandro Zentner, 2020. "The $100 Million Nudge: Increasing Tax Compliance of Businesses and the Self-Employed using a Natural Field Experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00712, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Hoy, Christopher & McKenzie, Luke & Sinning, Mathias, 2020. "Improving Tax Compliance without Increasing Revenue: Evidence from Population-Wide Randomized Controlled Trials in Papua New Guinea," IZA Discussion Papers 13407, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Antinyan, Armenak & Asatryan, Zareh, 2019. "Nudging for tax compliance: A meta-analysis," ZEW Discussion Papers 19-055, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    4. Laila Ait Bihi Ouali, 2020. "Effects of signalling tax evasion on redistribution and voting preferences: Evidence from the Panama Papers," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(3), pages 1-22, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax Compliance ; Field Experiments ; Simplification ; Enforcement;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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