Cooperation under the Risk of Capture: Why Citizens Pay Taxes That Can Be Embezzled

45 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2016 Last revised: 29 Sep 2016

See all articles by Malte M. Lierl

Malte M. Lierl

Yale University; GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies

Date Written: September 28, 2016

Abstract

Why do citizens pay hard-to-enforce local taxes, if public funds are likely to be embezzled? Evidence from behavioral experiments with village residents in Tanzania suggests that local norms of moderation in embezzlement can facilitate voluntary contributions to public goods. In villages where greater moderation in embezzlement can be expected, citizens' contribution preferences are less sensitive to the possibility that their contributions can be embezzled. Voluntary moderation in embezzlement can be explained by several behavioral mechanisms, including in-group solidarity, reciprocity, and norms of trusteeship. The findings have important implications for our understanding of tax compliance and public goods provision in situations where limited enforcement capacity coincides with weak public accountability.

Keywords: Informal Taxation, Tax Compliance, Corruption, Public Goods, Experiment

JEL Classification: C92, C93, D73, H26, H27, H41, O17

Suggested Citation

Lierl, Malte M., Cooperation under the Risk of Capture: Why Citizens Pay Taxes That Can Be Embezzled (September 28, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2831139 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2831139

GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies ( email )

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Hamburg, 20354
Germany

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