Fiscal Anarchy in the U.K.: Modelling Poll Tax Noncompliance
Timothy Besley, Ian Preston, Michael Ridge
NBER Working Paper No. 4498
The U.K.'s experience with the poll tax reminds us that even in an economy with a relatively well developed detection and legal system, one cannot take tax compliance for granted. The experience of the poll tax provides a unique opportunity to study many dimensions of tax compliance. We model nonpayment rates in a short panel of data on the 366 English local authorities. The transparent observability of individual and aggregate liabilities makes reliable measurement of rates of nonpayment possible. Moreover, these rates rose to unprecedented levels as well as exhibiting considerable variation across authorities. This, together with the variation in local taxes both between districts and over time, creates an ideal opportunity for empirical investigation. Our empirical specification allows us to investigate the determinants of compliance as a function of authority characteristics from census and other geographical data. Moreover, the analysis takes seriously the possibility of neighbourhood influences across authority boundaries. Our empirical results confirm the idea that higher taxes lead to larger compliance problems and that attempts to enforce compliance have a positive effect. Neighbourhood effects on non-compliance were less conspicuous, figuring significantly, if at all, only in the final year.
Published: Besley, Timothy, Ian Preston and Michael Ridge. "Fiscal Anarchy In The UK: Modelling Poll Tax Noncompliance," Journal of Public Economics, 1997, v64(2,May), 137-152.