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Session Overview
F01: Tax Enforcement
Thursday, 19/Aug/2021:
2:15pm - 3:45pm

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2:15pm - 2:37pm

What Makes a Tax Evader?

Marcelo Bergolo1, Martin Leites1, Ricardo Perez-Truglia2, Matias Strehl1

1Instituto de Economia, Universidad de La Republica; 2Haas, UC Berkeley

Why do some individuals choose to evade taxes while others do not? One popular view is that some individuals cheat on their taxes because they are more dishonest, selfish, or perceive different social norms. There is, however, little direct evidence on this matter. In collaboration with the national tax agency in Uruguay, we address this question using a combination of surveys and administrative records. Leveraging a unique institutional setting, we measure individual-level evasion choices. We document significant variation in evasion decisions across individuals. For a subsample of 6,078 taxpayers, we use survey questions and incentivized laboratory games to measure traits such as honesty, selfishness, and perceived social norms. We find that these individual traits have some power to predict who evades taxes, but other factors, such as the environment, play a much bigger role.

2:37pm - 3:00pm

Compliance Effects of Risk-based Threshold Audits

Oddbjørn Raaum1, Knut Løyland2, Gaute Torsvik3, Arnstein Øvrum2

1Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research, Norway; 2National Tax Administration Norway; 3Department of Economics, University of Oslo

While RCTs are increasingly used to study effects of tax audits, this paper identifies long-term effects of risk-based audits with a regression discontinuity design. The tax administration applied a machine learning algorithm to predict a binary classifier of noncompliance on data from an audit experiment among taxpayers with high selfreported income tax deductions. In subsequent years the model has been used to risk score the same group of taxpayers and audit those with a score above a threshold. We find substantial compliance effects of being audited. Compared to their non-audited “neighbors” the audited taxpayers reduced self-reported deductions by 19% the first year after the audit. At the current audit threshold level the total tax income generated by the audit is much higher than the audit costs. We use data from the machine learning experiment to estimate the risk score threshold that would maximize net public revenue from the audits.

3:00pm - 3:22pm

Forgiveness _Seems_ Divine: Tax Amnesties and Tax Compliance

Maximiliano Lauletta1, Felipe Montano Campos2

1University of California Berkeley; 2Duke University

This paper studies the effect of a tax amnesty on subsequent compliance with the property tax in Argentina. This tax is a monthly amount calculated and billed on property owners by the government, so we define compliance as the amount paid over the liability billed for the corresponding month. Using an administrative panel of individual-level tax data, we exploit that only one county implemented an amnesty and use taxpayers from nearby counties as a control group in a difference-in-differences approach. Results show that subsequent tax compliance improves after the amnesty relative to other counties by about 2 percentage points. This effect can be separated into two components: (i) a substantial increase in compliance from taxpayers who enroll in the amnesty, (ii) a minor increase in compliance from taxpayers who do not. Overall, results are consistent with tax amnesties serving as a tool to get some delinquents back on compliance.

3:22pm - 3:45pm

The Race Between Tax Enforcement and Tax Planning: Evidence From a Natural Experiment in Chile

Dina Pomeranz1, Sebastian Bustos4, Juan Carlos Suarez Serrato2, Jose Vila-Belda1, Gabriel Zucman3

1University of Zurich, Switzerland; 2Duke University; 3University of California Berkeley; 4University of Harvard

Using micro-level administrative tax and customs data covering the universe of internationally active Chilean firms, we study a reform that greatly increased information reporting by multinational firms, following Chile's accession to the OECD. We first document that multinationals conduct tax-motivated cross-border transactions: Payments to foreign subsidiaries decrease with the destination country’s tax rate, while there is no such relationship for payments to non-affiliated firms. We then use difference-in-differences regressions to estimate the impacts of the reform on taxes paid and intra-group flows of royalties, interest, goods, and services. The reform did not significantly raise taxes paid and we find no impact on the transactions that shift profits to low-tax places. In contrast, there was a strong increase in the demand for tax advisory services. Whenever the supply of tax-planning services is not regulated, devoting more resources to tax enforcement can lead to a wasteful expenditure of resources by both tax authorities and taxpayers.

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