Testing Local Descriptive Norms and Salience of Enforcement Action: A Field Experiment to Increase Tax Collection

25 Pages Posted: 12 May 2018

See all articles by Chris Larkin

Chris Larkin

The Behavioural Insights Team

Michael Sanders

Cabinet Office (UK) - Behavioural Insights Team

Isabelle Andresen

The Behavioural Insights Team

Felicity Algate

The Behavioural Insights Team

Date Written: April 29, 2018

Abstract

The use of behavioural science interventions, and particularly social norms, in tax compliance has become a growth industry for scholars and practitioners alike in recent years. However, these interventions largely represent a 'black box', where effects could be explained by a pro-social desire to support one's community, conditional cooperation, desire to conform, or fear of reprisals. We conduct an experiment in local government taxation in the United Kingdom which tests social norms against a control condition and against messages that highlight the enforcement process. Social norms outperforms enforcement salience, suggesting that this explanation, although more powerful than the control, does not fully explain compliance effects. By comparing results to previous studies, we find that these effects are larger for local taxes than national ones, even when comparing similar taxpayers. This provides further evidence that social norm type interventions can be most effective when using norms from socially closer reference groups.

Keywords: Social Norms, Randomized Controlled Trial, Local Taxation, Enforcement Salience

Suggested Citation

Larkin, Chris and Sanders, Michael and Andresen, Isabelle and Algate, Felicity, Testing Local Descriptive Norms and Salience of Enforcement Action: A Field Experiment to Increase Tax Collection (April 29, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3167575 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3167575

Chris Larkin (Contact Author)

The Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

4 Matthew Parker Street
London, SW1H 9NP
United Kingdom

Michael Sanders

Cabinet Office (UK) - Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

London, SW1A 2AS
United Kingdom

Isabelle Andresen

The Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

4 Matthew Parker Street
London, SW1H 9NP
United Kingdom

Felicity Algate

The Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

4 Matthew Parker Street
London, SW1H 9NP
United Kingdom

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