IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/zbw/aluord/1806.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Commitment to pay taxes: Results from field and laboratory experiments

Author

Listed:
  • Koessler, Ann-Kathrin
  • Torgler, Benno
  • Feld, Lars P.
  • Frey, Bruno S.

Abstract

The ability of a tax authority to collect taxes successfully depends on both its relationship with taxpayers and how strongly these taxpayers are committed to contributing to the common good. We present field and laboratory experimental evidence on a new non-intrusive approach aimed at fostering the commitment to pay taxes. Using a between-subject design in a unique field setting, we analyze whether tax compliance changes if taxpayers receive an offer to promise paying their taxes on time. Taxpayers who complied with the promise entered into a lottery with the chance of winning either a financial or a non-financial reward. Rewards were also offered in response to compliance only (i.e., without being asked to make a formal promise) allowing us to disentangle a pure reward effect from the commitment effect. As potential legal obstacles prevented us from developing a treatment that allowed for identifying whether the promise itself changes behavior, we designed and conducted a laboratory experiment to test this proposition. In the field experiment, taxpayers with a history of being compliant are more likely to make a promise. Similarly, the laboratory experiment indicates that individuals with higher tax morale are more compliant and more likely to make the promise. In addition, for all promise schemes, compliance is significantly higher for the promise-makers as compared to subjects in the control group and to those who did not make a promise. The field experiment indicates that commitment can improve payment behavior. This effect, however, is strongly dependent on the type of reward to which the promise is linked. Compliance increases only if the reward is non-financial. A no compliance effect is observed if cash is offered in return for promise fulfilment. A strong compliance effect for pure non-financial rewards was also obtained in the laboratory experiment.

Suggested Citation

  • Koessler, Ann-Kathrin & Torgler, Benno & Feld, Lars P. & Frey, Bruno S., 2018. "Commitment to pay taxes: Results from field and laboratory experiments," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 18/06, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:aluord:1806
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/177848/1/1019357142.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2003. "Promises & Partnership," Research Papers in Economics 2003:3, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    2. Johannes Abeler & Armin Falk & Lorenz Goette & David Huffman, 2011. "Reference Points and Effort Provision," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 470-492, April.
    3. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus & Tjøtta, Sigve & Torsvik, Gaute, 2010. "Testing guilt aversion," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 95-107, January.
    4. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Feld, Lars P. & Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 2003. "The impact of corporate and personal income taxes on the location of firms and on employment: some panel evidence for the Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 129-155, January.
    6. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Promises, Threats and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 397-420, April.
    7. Kirchler, Erich & Wahl, Ingrid, 2010. "Tax compliance inventory TAX-I: Designing an inventory for surveys of tax compliance," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 331-346, June.
    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, July.
    9. Frey, Bruno & Gallus, Jana, 2017. "Honours versus Money: The Economics of Awards," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198798507.
    10. Dulleck, Uwe & Fooken, Jonas & Newton, Cameron & Ristl, Andrea & Schaffner, Markus & Torgler, Benno, 2016. "Tax compliance and psychic costs: Behavioral experimental evidence using a physiological marker," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 9-18.
    11. Barbara Kastlunger & Stephan Muehlbacher & Erich Kirchler & Luigi Mittone, 2011. "What Goes Around Comes Around? Experimental Evidence of the Effect of Rewards on Tax Compliance," Public Finance Review, , vol. 39(1), pages 150-167, January.
    12. Benno Torgler & Friedrich Schneider & Christoph Schaltegger, 2010. "Local autonomy, tax morale, and the shadow economy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 144(1), pages 293-321, July.
    13. Ken Binmore, 2006. "Why do people cooperate?," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 5(1), pages 81-96, February.
    14. Fochmann, Martin & Kroll, Eike B., 2014. "The effects of rewards on tax compliance decisions," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 163, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    15. Ostrom, Elinor & Walker, James & Gardner, Roy, 1992. "Covenants with and without a Sword: Self-Governance Is Possible," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 86(2), pages 404-417, June.
    16. Cécile Bazart & Michael Pickhardt, 2011. "Fighting Income Tax Evasion with Positive Rewards," Public Finance Review, , vol. 39(1), pages 124-149, January.
    17. James Alm & Benno Torgler, 2011. "Do Ethics Matter? Tax Compliance and Morality," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(4), pages 635-651, July.
    18. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2006. "Promises and Partnership," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1579-1601, November.
    19. Pommerehne, Werner W & Weck-Hannemann, Hannelore, 1996. "Tax Rates, Tax Administration and Income Tax Evasion in Switzerland," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 88(1-2), pages 161-170, July.
    20. Torgler, Benno & Schneider, Friedrich, 2009. "The impact of tax morale and institutional quality on the shadow economy," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 228-245, April.
    21. Benno Torgler, 2007. "Tax Compliance and Tax Morale," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 4096, April.
    22. Michael Hallsworth, 2014. "The use of field experiments to increase tax compliance," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(4), pages 658-679.
    23. Slemrod, Joel & Blumenthal, Marsha & Christian, Charles, 2001. "Taxpayer response to an increased probability of audit: evidence from a controlled experiment in Minnesota," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(3), pages 455-483, March.
    24. John R. Boatright, 2013. "Swearing to be Virtuous: The Prospects of a Banker's Oath," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 71(2), pages 140-165, June.
    25. Lars P. Feld & Bruno S. Frey, 2002. "Trust breeds trust: How taxpayers are treated," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 87-99, July.
    26. Belot, Michèle & Bhaskar, V. & van de Ven, Jeroen, 2010. "Promises and cooperation: Evidence from a TV game show," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 396-405, March.
    27. Paul Carrillo & Edgar Castro & Carlos Scartascini, 2017. "Do Rewards Work?: Evidence from the Randomization of Public Works," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 98459, Inter-American Development Bank.
    28. Torgler, Benno, 2006. "The importance of faith: Tax morale and religiosity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 81-109, September.
    29. Christoph Vanberg, 2008. "Why Do People Keep Their Promises? An Experimental Test of Two Explanations -super-1," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(6), pages 1467-1480, November.
    30. Feld, Lars P, 2000. "Tax Competition and Income Redistribution: An Empirical Analysis for Switzerland," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 105(1-2), pages 125-164, October.
    31. Benno Torgler, 2003. "Beyond Punishment: a tax compliance experiment with taxpayers in Costa Rica," Revista de Analisis Economico – Economic Analysis Review, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Business, vol. 18(1), pages 27-56, June.
    32. Kirchler,Erich, 2007. "The Economic Psychology of Tax Behaviour," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521876742.
    33. Nadja Dwenger & Henrik Kleven & Imran Rasul & Johannes Rincke, 2016. "Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivations for Tax Compliance: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Germany," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 203-232, August.
    34. 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.
    35. James Alm & Kim M. Bloomquist & Michael McKee, 2015. "On The External Validity Of Laboratory Tax Compliance Experiments," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(2), pages 1170-1186, April.
    36. repec:feb:artefa:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
    37. Cécile Bazart & Michael Pickhardt, 2009. "Fighting Income Tax Evasion with Positive Rewards: Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 09-01, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier, revised Jun 2009.
    38. Marwell, Gerald & Ames, Ruth E., 1981. "Economists free ride, does anyone else? : Experiments on the provision of public goods, IV," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 295-310, June.
    39. Torgler, Benno & Demir, Ihsan C. & Macintyre, Alison & Schaffner, Markus, 2008. "Causes and Consequences of Tax Morale: An Empirical Investigation," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 313-339, September.
    40. Levitt, Steven D. & List, John A., 2009. "Field experiments in economics: The past, the present, and the future," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-18, January.
    41. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
    42. Benno Torgler & Markus Schaffner & Alison Macintyre, 2007. "Tax Compliance, Tax Morale and Governance Quality," CREMA Working Paper Series 2007-17, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    43. Brockmann, Hilke & Genschel, Philipp & Seelkopf, Laura, 2016. "Happy taxation: increasing tax compliance through positive rewards?," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(3), pages 381-406, September.
    44. Torgler, Benno, 2002. " Speaking to Theorists and Searching for Facts: Tax Morale and Tax Compliance in Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(5), pages 657-683, December.
    45. Huseyn Ismayilov & Jan Potters, 2016. "Why do promises affect trustworthiness, or do they?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(2), pages 382-393, June.
    46. Koessler, Ann-Kathrin & Page, Lionel & Dulleck, Uwe, 2015. "Promoting pro-social behavior with public statements of good intent," MPRA Paper 80072, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 24 May 2017.
    47. Frey, Bruno S, 1997. "A Constitution for Knaves Crowds Out Civic Virtues," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(443), pages 1043-1053, July.
    48. Choo, C.Y. Lawrence & Fonseca, Miguel A. & Myles, Gareth D., 2016. "Do students behave like real taxpayers in the lab? Evidence from a real effort tax compliance experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 102-114.
    49. Feld, Lars P., 1997. "Exit, voice and income taxes: The loyalty of voters," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 455-478, September.
    50. Carrillo, Paul E. & Castro, Edgar & Scartascini, Carlos, 2017. "Do Rewards Work?: Evidence from the Randomization of Public Works," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8246, Inter-American Development Bank.
    51. Sjaak Hurkens & Navin Kartik, 2009. "Would I lie to you? On social preferences and lying aversion," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 12(2), pages 180-192, June.
    52. Torgler, Benno, 2005. "Tax morale and direct democracy," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 525-531, June.
    53. Benno Torgler, 2013. "A Field Experiment in Moral Suasion and Tax Compliance Focusing on Underdeclaration and Overdeduction," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 69(4), pages 393-411, December.
    54. Fochmann, Martin & Kroll, Eike B., 2016. "The effects of rewards on tax compliance decisions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 38-55.
    55. Torgler, Benno & Schneider, Friedrich, 2009. "The impact of tax morale and institutional quality on the shadow economy," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 228-245, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Nicolas Jacquemet & Stephane Luchini & Antoine Malezieux & Jason Shogren, 2019. "Who'll stop lying under oath? Empirical evidence from Tax Evasion Games," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-02159905, HAL.
    2. Koessler, Ann-Kathrin, 2019. "Setting new behavioural standards: Sustainabilty pledges and how conformity impacts their outreach," EconStor Preprints 195048, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    tax compliance; field experiment; commitment; promise; supportive incentives; psychological contract;

    JEL classification:

    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:aluord:1806. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/euckede.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.