Dining With Tax Collectors: Reducing the Tax Gap Through Church-Government Partnerships
Rutgers Business Law Journal, Vol. 7, pp. 53-126, 2010
75 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2010
Date Written: April 30, 2010
This article explores an untapped resource in improving tax compliance: partnerships between the government and Judeo-Christian religious organizations. Currently, most of the techniques the IRS employs to improve tax compliance are based on a traditional theory of law enforcement in which compliance is achieved through a combination of increasing the probability of detection and/or increasing the potential penalty. Although the IRS has begun to adopt some initiatives based on awareness that factors apart from a simple economic calculus motivate tax compliance decisions, these programs are still in their infancy. The solutions that the IRS is considering are worthwhile, but they are mere stopgaps. In order to achieve a more lasting improvement in compliance rates, the IRS must considerably expand its efforts beyond the traditional theories of enforcement and adopt strategies that help establish tax compliance as an underlying social virtue. Scholars have recognized this need, but the current literature has paid little attention to how religious organizations can be used to help effect this change in taxpayer attitudes. Partnerships between the government and religious organizations have significant potential to effect a culture change by providing more effective forums for taxpayer education than those currently used and by serving as intermediaries between taxpayers and the government. These partnerships, if implemented correctly (as they have been in other areas of law enforcement), potentially could help create a long-term norm shift that would improve compliance, without significantly burdening the IRS’ already underwhelming resources.
Keywords: tax, religion, social norms
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