State Coercion, Moral Attitudes, and Tax Compliance: Evidence from a National Factorial Survey Experiment of Income Tax Evasion
86 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2018 Last revised: 18 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 18, 2019
Why do some people comply with their obligation to pay taxes while others do not? Scholars of tax behavior, particularly economists and political scientists, have relied on models of state coercion and state reciprocity to answer this question. Neither state coercion nor state reciprocity, however, sufficiently account for individuals who voluntarily comply with their tax obligations to the state. We offer a third explanation, derived from the new sociology of morality and moral psychology, suggesting that two types of moral attitudes (moral imperatives and moral alignment) affect tax compliance. Using a factorial survey experiment of income tax evasion (failure to report cash payments) and a survey questionnaire administered to a nationally representative random sample of U.S. adults, we provide a systematic test of the three different models of tax compliance. The results yield strong support for moral attitudes (both moral imperatives and moral alignment) and state coercion, but little support for state reciprocity. We review the implications of our findings in the discussion and conclusion.
Keywords: Tax Compliance, State Coercion, State Reciprocity, Moral Attitudes, Factorial Survey Experiment
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