The ghost of institutions past: History as an obstacle to fighting tax evasion?

Aaron Kamm, Christian Koch, Nikos Nikiforakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Can a history of evasion affect tax compliance after a major institutional reform? We address this question in a novel laboratory experiment varying the quality of past and present institutions. We find that past institutions continue to exert considerable influence on individuals’ expectations about others’ compliance even after a major, common-knowledge institutional change. Consequently, we observe low compliance in good-quality institutions when there is a history of evasion, but high compliance when there is no such history. These findings suggest that history should not be ignored as it is in traditional models of compliance: the higher evasion has been historically, the stronger incentives may need to be to overcome the “ghost of institutions past”. We show that a society-wide poll in which individuals express their attitudes toward compliance can help break the link with the past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103641
JournalEuropean Economic Review
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Experiment
  • Interdependence
  • Multiple equilibria
  • Path dependence
  • Tax evasion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


Dive into the research topics of 'The ghost of institutions past: History as an obstacle to fighting tax evasion?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this