Fiscal Anarchy in the U.K.: Modelling Poll Tax Noncompliance

Timothy Besley, Ian Preston, Michael Ridge

NBER Working Paper No. 4498
Issued in October 1993
NBER Program(s):Public Economics

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.

download in pdf format
   (2186 K)

download in djvu format
   (275 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w4498

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. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Blumenthal, Christian, and Slemrod w6575 The Determinants of Income Tax Compliance: Evidence from a Controlled Experiment in Minnesota
Slemrod and Yitzhaki w7473 Tax Avoidance, Evasion, and Administration
Mayer Financial Systems, Corporate Finance, and Economic Development
Bovenberg and Goulder w3139 Promoting Investment under International Capital Mobility: An Intertemporal General Equilibrium Analysis
Feldstein w9203 The Role for Discretionary Fiscal Policy in a Low Interest Rate Environment
NBER Videos

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

Contact Us