Tax Compliance in a Social Setting: the Influence of Norms, Perceptions of Fairness, and Trust in Government on Taxpayer Compliance

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Many taxing authorities, including those in the United States (U.S.), rely on voluntary tax compliance and continually search for ways to increase tax revenues. Most of these methods are costly and labor intensive, such as audits and penalties for noncompliance. Prior tax compliance research has heavily investigated the influence that economic factors, such as tax rates and penalties, have on individual compliance intentions. However, economic models fail to fully predict individual tax compliance. Psychology literature suggests that social factors may also play an important role in individual tax compliance decisions. The purpose of this study is to examine the influence ... continued below

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Jimenez, Peggy D. August 2013.

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  • Jimenez, Peggy D.

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Many taxing authorities, including those in the United States (U.S.), rely on voluntary tax compliance and continually search for ways to increase tax revenues. Most of these methods are costly and labor intensive, such as audits and penalties for noncompliance. Prior tax compliance research has heavily investigated the influence that economic factors, such as tax rates and penalties, have on individual compliance intentions. However, economic models fail to fully predict individual tax compliance. Psychology literature suggests that social factors may also play an important role in individual tax compliance decisions. The purpose of this study is to examine the influence that social and psychological factors have on individuals' tax compliance intentions. Specifically, a model of taxpayer compliance is hypothesized that suggests that norms, perceived fairness of the tax system, and trust in government have a significant influence on compliance intentions. Results of a survey of 217 U.S. taxpayers found support for the influence of social factors on tax compliance. This research concludes that social norms have an indirect influence on compliance intentions through internalization as personal norms. Specifically, as the strength of social norms in favor of tax compliance increase, personal norms of tax compliance also increase, and this leads to a subsequent increase in compliance intentions. This dissertation also finds that trust in government and the perceived fairness of the tax system have a significant influence on compliance intentions. Supplemental analyses indicate that trust in government fully mediates the relationship between perceived fairness of the tax system and compliance intentions. This research offers several contributions to accounting literature and provides valuable insight for taxing authorities. First, this study examines taxpayer compliance from a psychological, rather than an economics driven, perspective. The suggested model of taxpayer compliance posits that social norms have a significant influence on compliance intentions. This information may help taxing authorities develop less costly and more effective strategies for increasing taxpayer compliance. This study also examines the influence that perceived fairness of the tax system has on compliance intentions. This is a widely debated topic in the media and social settings and may have a particularly strong influence on compliance intentions during these times of political and social arguments regarding tax equity. Finally, trust in government around the world has seen a continual decline. The results indicate that decreased trust in government and decreased perceived fairness of the tax system lead to decreased intention to comply with tax laws. Such information may help governments understand actions they can take to improve tax compliance.

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  • August 2013

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  • April 23, 2014, 8:20 p.m.

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  • Nov. 16, 2016, 12:54 p.m.

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Jimenez, Peggy D. Tax Compliance in a Social Setting: the Influence of Norms, Perceptions of Fairness, and Trust in Government on Taxpayer Compliance, dissertation, August 2013; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc283805/: accessed November 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .