NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Political Alignment, Attitudes Toward Government and Tax Evasion

Julie Berry Cullen, Nicholas Turner, Ebonya L. Washington

NBER Working Paper No. 24323
Issued in February 2018, Revised in July 2019
NBER Program(s):Public Economics Program, Political Economy Program

We ask whether attitudes toward government play a causal role in the evasion of U.S. personal income taxes. We use individual-level survey data to demonstrate a link between sharing the party of the president and trust in the administration generally and opinions on taxation and spending policy, more specifically. Next, we move to the county level, and measure tax behavior as turnover elections push voters in partisan counties into and out of alignment with the party of the president. We provide three types of evidence that alignment reduces evasion. As a county moves into alignment we find 1) taxpayers report more easily-evaded forms of income; 2) suspect EITC claims decrease; and 3) audits triggered and audits found to owe additional tax decrease. Our results provide real-world evidence that a positive outlook on government lowers tax evasion.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24323

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