State coercion, moral attitudes, and tax compliance: Evidence from a national factorial survey experiment of income tax evasion

Blaine Robbins, Edgar Kiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Why do some people comply with their obligation to pay taxes while others do not? Scholars of tax behavior, particularly economists and political scientists, have relied on models of state coercion and state reciprocity to answer this question. Neither state coercion nor state reciprocity, however, sufficiently account for individuals who voluntarily comply with their tax obligations to the state. We offer a third explanation, derived from the new sociology of morality and moral psychology, suggesting that two types of moral attitudes (moral imperatives and moral alignment) affect tax compliance. Using a factorial survey experiment of income tax evasion and a survey questionnaire administered to a nationally representative random sample of U.S. adults, we provide a systematic test of the three different models of tax compliance. The results yield strong support for moral attitudes (both moral imperatives and moral alignment) and state coercion, but little support for state reciprocity. We review the implications of our findings in the discussion and conclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102448
JournalSocial Science Research
Volume91
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Factorial survey experiment
  • Moral attitudes
  • State coercion
  • State reciprocity
  • Tax compliance
  • Tax evasion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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