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Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivations for Tax Compliance. Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment in Germany

Author

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  • Dwenger, Nadja
  • Kleven, Henrik
  • Rasul, Imran
  • Rincke, Johannes

Abstract

Is tax compliance driven only by extrinsic motivations such as deterrence and tax policy or is there also a role for intrinsic motivations such as morals, norms and psychology? Agents may comply based on moral sentiments, social norms, guilt and shame (Andreoni et al. 1998), all of which are non-deterrence driven reasons for compliance. The importance of such intrinsically motivated compliance is hard to study empirically and therefore the least understood. This study uses a unique setting for making progress on this question: the local church tax in Germany. As we show in the paper, tax evaders, compliers, and donors can coexist in the local church tax system and be precisely distinguished from each other. Since there is zero deterrence in the baseline, baseline compliance provides a direct measure of intrinsically motivated tax compliance. Starting from the zero deterrence baseline we use a randomized field experiment to inject deterrence or recognition into the system. This allows us to study if policies aimed at either extrinsic motivation (deterrence) or intrinsic motivation (recognition) have qualitatively different effects on agents who have revealed each of those motivations in the baseline. Our main empirical findings are the following. First, a significant fraction of agents (23%) comply in the zero deterrence baseline where compliance would be zero absent intrinsic motivation, while the remaining 77% evade the tax. Intrinsic motivation is therefore substantial, although the majority behaves as rational, self-interested taxpayers. Second, announcing a zero audit probability (the status quo) has a small and insignificant effect on the compliance rate, showing that there is very little misperception on average. Third, tax salience and deterrence have strong effects on compliance for baseline evaders, but small and insignificant effects for baseline donors. This is consistent with the fact that the enforcement constraint is not binding for the intrinsically motivated and therefore they are naturally unresponsive to deterrence. Fourth and finally, recognition through social and monetary rewards for compliance has fundamentally different effects on baseline donors (who increase their payments) and baseline evaders (who reduce their payments). Hence, whether recognition helps or hurts depends crucially on what motivates taxpayers in the first place, with positive effects on the intrinsically motivated and negative effects on the extrinsically motivated. All of our findings can be explained by a model of tax compliance that unifies the standard Becker-Allingham-Sandmo approach (strengthening extrinsic motives for tax compliance) and the Andreoni (1989, 1990) warm-glow model of pro-social behaviour.

Suggested Citation

  • Dwenger, Nadja & Kleven, Henrik & Rasul, Imran & Rincke, Johannes, 2014. "Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivations for Tax Compliance. Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment in Germany," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100389, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc14:100389
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Besley, Timothy J. & Jensen, Anders & Persson, Torsten, 2015. "Norms, Enforcement, and Tax Evasion," CEPR Discussion Papers 10372, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. ITO Koichiro & IDA Takanori & TANAKA Makoto, 2015. "The Persistence of Moral Suasion and Economic Incentives: Field experimental evidence from energy demand," Discussion papers 15014, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    3. Berger, Melissa & Fellner-Röhling, Gerlinde & Sausgruber, Rupert & Traxler, Christian, 2016. "Higher taxes, more evasion? Evidence from border differentials in TV license fees," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 74-86.
    4. Egebark, Johan & Ekström, Mathias, 2016. "Can indifference make the world greener?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1-13.
    5. Sarah Necker, 2016. "Why do scientists cheat? Insights from behavioral economics," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 74(1), pages 98-108, March.
    6. Pierre C. Boyer & Nadja Dwenger & Johannes Rincke, 2014. "Do Taxes Crowd Out Intrinsic Motivation? Field-Experimental Evidence from Germany," Working Papers tax-mpg-rps-2014-23, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
    7. Castro, Lucio & Scartascini, Carlos, 2015. "Tax compliance and enforcement in the pampas evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 65-82.
    8. Cyan, Musharraf R. & Koumpias, Antonios M. & Martinez-Vazquez, Jorge, 2016. "The determinants of tax morale in Pakistan," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 23-34.
    9. Ugo Troiano & Ricardo Perez-Truglia, 2015. "Tax Debt Enforcement: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment in the United States," 2015 Meeting Papers 134, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Philipp Doerrenberg & Jan Schmitz, 2017. "Tax compliance and information provision. A field experiment with small firms," Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), vol. 1(1), pages 47-54, February.
    11. Kettle,Stewart & Hernandez,Marco & Ruda,Simon & Sanders,Michael, 2016. "Behavioral interventions in tax compliance : evidence from Guatemala," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7690, The World Bank.
    12. Ann-Kathrin Koessler & Benno Torgler & Lars P. Feld & Bruno S. Frey, 2016. "Commitment to Pay Taxes: A Field Experiment on the Importance of Promise," CESifo Working Paper Series 6186, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. repec:bla:jecsur:v:32:y:2018:i:2:p:273-301 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Martin Abraham & Kerstin Lorek & Friedemann Richter & Matthias Wrede, 2017. "Collusive tax evasion and social norms," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 24(2), pages 179-197, April.
    15. Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Monica Singhal, 2014. "Tax Morale," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 149-168, Fall.
    16. Giulia Mascagni, 2018. "From The Lab To The Field: A Review Of Tax Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(2), pages 273-301, April.
    17. repec:lpe:efijnl:201605 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Blaufus, Kay & Braune, Matthias & Hundsdoerfer, Jochen & Jacob, Martin, 2015. "Does legality matter? The case of tax avoidance and evasion," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 193, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    19. Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen, 2014. "How can Scandinavians tax so much?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66111, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    20. Colin C. Williams & Friedrich Schneider, 2016. "Measuring the Global Shadow Economy," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 16551, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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