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DETERRENCE AND MORAL PERSUASION EFFECTS ON CORPORATE TAX COMPLIANCE: FINDINGS FROM A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL*

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Previous studies on tax compliance have focused primarily on the tax‐reporting behavior of individuals. This study reports results from a randomized field test of the effects of deterrence and moral persuasion on the tax‐reporting behavior of 4,395 corporations in Israel. Two experimental groups received tax letters, one conveying a deterrent message and the other a moral persuasion message. Three types of measures are used to evaluate compliance based on the magnitude of the difference‐in‐differences of means in 1) gross sales values reported to the authority, 2) tax dollars paid to the authority, and 3) tax deductions. Overall, both deterrence and moral persuasion approaches do not produce statistically significant greater compliance compared with control conditions. These results do not support the ability of a policy of sending tax letters to increase substantively the reporting of true tax liability or tax payments by corporations. However, these results also show that moral persuasion can be counterproductive: Corporations in this experimental group show an increase rather than a decrease in tax deductions, which translates into loss of state revenues. The implications for theory, research, and tax policy are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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