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Session Overview
B04: Enforcement
Wednesday, 18/Aug/2021:
12:30pm - 2:00pm

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12:30pm - 12:52pm

Do Think Twice, it's Alright: Effects and Mechanisms of Tax Enforcement Policies

Andreas Kotsadam1, Knut Løyland2, Oddbjørn Raaum1, Gaute Torsvik3, Arnstein Øvrum2

1The Frisch Centre, Norway; 2Norwegian Tax Authorities; 3University of Oslo

Audits have lasting effects on subsequent behavior among audited tax payers but there is limited empirical evidence on why that is. Using a large scale randomized controlled trial with 15.000 high risk tax filers we compare the effectiveness of a desk based correspondence audit and a letter encouraging tax filers to take a second look at their self-reported deductions. We find that both interventions lower deductions and the effects are both large and lasting. We subsequently sent out a survey to the tax filers and find that only the audits affect the perceived risk of future audits, and even for that group, the increase in perceived audit risk is too small to explain the effect of the audit.Hence, a substantial part of the treatment effect goes via other channels such as improved knowledge about tax rules.

Kotsadam-Do Think Twice, its Alright-169.pdf

12:52pm - 1:15pm

Do Collateral Sanctions Work?: Evidence from the IRS' Passport Certification and Revocation Process

Paul R. Organ1, Alex Ruda2, Joel Slemrod1, Alex Turk2

1University of Michigan, United States of America; 2Internal Revenue Service

According to Allingham and Sandmo (1972), tax evasion is constrained by the threat of detection and punishment. Traditionally, the punishment for evasion has been financial and, occasionally, imprisonment. But there is a third tool, collateral sanction, which to date has received little attention. We address that gap by examining a new U.S. initiative restricting passport access to tax debtors. Focusing first on taxpayers denied a passport-related request, we examine behavior before and after request denial, compared to a control group, to estimate the direct effect of the denial. We then use an RCT embedded in the program rollout to identify the effect of certification on the larger set of taxpayers subject to passport certification. We also consider the potential for additional indirect effects. We find that denied passport requests have an immediate positive effect on compliance actions for many individuals. We find smaller but still meaningful effects of certification overall.

Organ-Do Collateral Sanctions Work-265.pdf

1:15pm - 1:37pm

Reporting Under Ignorance - Is It A Lie If I Don't Know?

Sven Arne Simon

Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance, Germany

We study self-serving reporting behavior when people are ignorant on whether they are dishonest or telling the truth. We argue that the costs of making a (potentially) dishonest report under ignorance are smaller than the behavioral costs of a deliberate lie. In our laboratory reporting task, subjects are either eligible to a high payoff or a low payoff. One dimension varies the available information on the eligibility to payoffs, and the other dimension the ex-ante probability distribution of payoffs. Ignorance on the eligibility to payoffs leads to a pronounced increase in the fraction of unjustified claims of the high payoff. While the probability dimension has only a small effect per se, the combination with ignorance is detrimental for truthful reporting. Further results indicate that most subjects are information seeking when having the opportunity to choose the preferred information regime and that social norms for reporting under ignorance are highly controversial.

Simon-Reporting Under Ignorance-539.pdf

1:37pm - 2:00pm

Threshold Targeting, Misreporting and Adjustment Costs: Evidence from a Third-Party Reporting Policy

Panayiotis Nicolaides

Hertie School, Berlin, Germany

I study the behaviour of taxpayers in response to a novel third-party reporting policy that incentivises electronic spending in the entire population. In 2017, the personal tax allowance in Greece became conditional on spending by electronic means, up to a maximum threshold determined by taxable income. I develop a labour supply model, which predicts threshold-targeting either by increasing electronic consumption or by misreporting. Using a unique administrative dataset, I document (a) 92% reporting on or beyond threshold, (b) evidence of misreporting through bunching at round numbers, (c) economically and statistically significant increases in electronic consumption, as taxpayers attempt to reach their thresholds. I propose an explanation for this pattern of behaviour: an interplay of policy inattention, liquidity constraints and perceived audit costs shapes the final outcome. The results provide insights regarding taxpayers’ responses to third-party reporting policies, the role of adjustment costs and the use of information technology in taxation.

Nicolaides-Threshold Targeting, Misreporting and Adjustment Costs-406.pdf

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