NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Behavioralist As Tax Collector: Using Natural Field Experiments to Enhance Tax Compliance

Michael Hallsworth, John List, Robert Metcalfe, Ivo Vlaev

NBER Working Paper No. 20007
Issued in March 2014
NBER Program(s):   PE

Tax collection problems date back to the earliest recorded history of mankind. This paper begins with a simple theoretical construct of paying (rather than declaring) taxes, which we argue has been an overlooked aspect of tax compliance. This construct is then tested in two large natural field experiments. Using administrative data from more than 200,000 individuals in the UK, we show that including social norms and public goods messages in standard tax payment reminder letters considerably enhances tax compliance. The field experiments increased taxes collected by the Government in the sample period and were cost-free to implement, demonstrating the potential importance of such interventions in increasing tax compliance.

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the August 2014 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Information about Free Papers

You should expect a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20007

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Antenucci, Cafarella, Levenstein, Ré, and Shapiro w20010 Using Social Media to Measure Labor Market Flows
Baugh, Ben-David, and Park w20052 The “Amazon Tax”: Empirical Evidence from Amazon and Main Street Retailers
Joyce, Crockett, Jaeger, Altindag, and O'Connell w20006 Does Classroom Time Matter? A Randomized Field Experiment of Hybrid and Traditional Lecture Formats in Economics
Guvenen, Kaplan, and Song w19864 How Risky Are Recessions for Top Earners?
Dee and Wyckoff w19529 Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us