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The behavioralist as tax collector: Using natural field experiments to enhance tax compliance

Michael Hallsworth, John List (), Robert Metcalfe () and Ivo Vlaev

Journal of Public Economics, 2017, vol. 148, issue C, 14-31

Abstract: This paper presents results from two large-scale natural field experiments that tested the effect of social norm messages on tax compliance. Using administrative data from >200,000 individuals in the United Kingdom, we show that including social norm messages in standard reminder letters increases payment rates for overdue tax. This result offers a rare example of social norm messages affecting tax compliance behavior in a real world setting. We find no evidence that loss framing is more effective than gain framing. Descriptive norms appear to be more effective than injunctive norms. Messages referring to public services or financial information also significantly increased payment rates. The field experiments accelerated the collection of tax revenue at little cost.

Keywords: Taxation; Natural field experiment; Social norms (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C93 D03 H26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Working Paper: The behavioralist as tax collector: Using natural field experiments to enhance tax compliance (2014) Downloads
Working Paper: The Behavioralist As Tax Collector: Using Natural Field Experiments to Enhance Tax Compliance (2014) Downloads
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