Shaming Tax Delinquents

62 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2015 Last revised: 8 Aug 2018

See all articles by Ricardo Perez-Truglia

Ricardo Perez-Truglia

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Ugo antonio Troiano

University of California, Riverside (UCR)

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Date Written: February 1, 2018


Many federal and local governments rely on shaming penalties to achieve policy goals, but little is known about how shaming works. Such penalties may be ineffective, or even backfire by crowding out intrinsic motivation. In this paper, we study shaming in the context of the collection of tax delinquencies. We sent letters to 34,334 tax delinquents who owed a total of half a billion dollars in three U.S. states. We randomized some of the information contained in the letter to vary the salience of financial penalties, shaming penalties, and peer comparisons. We then measured the effects of this information on subsequent payment rates, and found that increasing the visibility of delinquency status increases compliance by individuals who have debts below $2,500, but has no significant effect on individuals with larger debt amounts. Financial reminders have a positive effect on payment rates independent of the size of the debt, while information about the delinquency of neighbors has no effect on payment rates.

Keywords: tax debt, enforcement, financial, shaming, penalty

JEL Classification: C93, H26, K34, K42, Z13

Suggested Citation

Perez-Truglia, Ricardo and Troiano, Ugo antonio, Shaming Tax Delinquents (February 1, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Ricardo Perez-Truglia

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ugo antonio Troiano (Contact Author)

University of California, Riverside (UCR) ( email )

900 University Avenue
Riverside, CA CA 92521
United States

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