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How to improve tax compliance? Evidence from population-wide experiments in Belgium

De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel, Imbert, Clement, Spinnewijn, Johannes, Tsankova, Teodora and Luts, Maarten (2021) How to improve tax compliance? Evidence from population-wide experiments in Belgium. European Journal of Political Economy, 129 (5). 1425 - 1463. ISSN 0176-2680

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Identification Number: 10.1086/713096


We study the impact of simplification, deterrence and tax morale on tax compliance. We ran four natural field experiments varying the communication of the tax administration with the universe of income taxpayers in Belgium throughout the tax process. A consistent picture emerges across experiments: (i) simplifying communi- cation substantially increases compliance, (ii) deterrence messages have an additional positive effect, (iii) invoking tax morale is not effective, and often backfires. A discon- tinuity in enforcement intensity, combined with the experimental variation, allows us to compare simplification with standard enforcement measures. We find that simpli- fication is far more cost-effective, allowing for substantial savings on enforcement costs.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 by The University of Chicago
Divisions: Economics
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
JEL classification: C - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods > C9 - Design of Experiments > C93 - Field Experiments
D - Microeconomics > D9 - Intertemporal Choice and Growth > D91 - Intertemporal Consumer Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving
H - Public Economics > H2 - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue > H20 - General
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2020 10:33
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 03:32

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