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Erschienen in: Journal of Business Ethics 2/2024

22.03.2023 | Original Paper

How Government Spending Impacts Tax Compliance

verfasst von: Diana Falsetta, Jennifer K. Schafer, George T. Tsakumis

Erschienen in: Journal of Business Ethics | Ausgabe 2/2024

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Abstract

This study examines how taxpayer support for government spending can improve tax compliance. While there is ample evidence on the deterrent effect of audit probability on taxpayer noncompliance, there is no evidence related to the moderating role that taxpayer support may have on compliance behavior. We also examine the moderating role that taxpayer ethics plays in compliance decisions. Results of our study indicate that the level of taxpayer support influences taxpayer compliance decisions, in that those with greater support for how tax dollars are spent report higher amounts of taxable income. In addition, we find that audit probability influences taxpayer compliance decisions when there is support for the government’s use of tax dollars for non-welfare programs, such as defense. However, for welfare programs, such as healthcare, taxpayer support leads to increased compliance regardless of audit rate. When taxpayers do not support government programs, their compliance is lower regardless of the audit probability. This highlights the importance of gaining taxpayer support for government programs and indicates that attempts to align the interests of taxpayers with those of the government may increase voluntary compliance among taxpayers. Finally, we find that taxpayer ethics influences compliance such that, for individuals who have lower ethical standards, a high audit rate as well as support for a program may be necessary to improve compliance behavior. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

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Fußnoten
1
International tax resister groups, such as Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI), the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) in the U.S., Conscience Canada, as well as religious groups, choose not to fund what they perceive to be violent government activities, such as war or the death penalty. Members of these organizations refuse to pay all or a portion of their taxes because they oppose a government institution and/or its policies.
 
2
Campaigns in the Canadian House of Commons, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, for bills objecting to the use of taxes for military purposes have been garnering support. The Conscientious Objection Act, Canadian Bill C-363, and the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act, H.R. 4529, would amend existing law to permit taxpayers conscientiously opposed to participating in war to have their tax payments spent on any governmental program that does not fulfill a military purpose (see http://​consciencecanada​.​ca and http://​www.​peacetaxfund.​org).
 
3
See Torgler (2007) and Luttmer and Singhal (2014) for a detailed discussion of “tax morale”.
 
4
The focus of our research study is to examine taxpayer compliance decisions related to evasion, which involves illegal actions to minimize tax liabilities (i.e., underreporting taxable income). This is distinct from tax avoidance, which involves legal actions to minimize tax liabilities.
 
5
See Cowell (1990), Andreoni et al (1998), Alm (1999), and Slemrod and Yitszhaki (2002) for detailed discussion and review of the standard evasion model.
 
6
In their review of the tax compliance literature, Richardson and Sawyer (2001) list the four situational variables linked to taxpayer ethics as opportunity, probability of detection, tax rate, and witholding status.
 
7
Machiavellianism has been studied in many settings, including marketing (Hunt & Chonko, 1984), banking (Corzine et al., 1999), and the legal profession (Valentine & Fleischman, 2003). In management accounting decision settings, higher (lower) Machiavellianism is associated with more (less) aggressively negotiated transfer prices (Ghosh, 2000) and more (less) creation of budgetary slack (Hartmann & Maas, 2010). In two tax studies where undergraduate students are placed in the role-playing context of a taxpayer (Ghosh & Crain, 1995, 1996), high (low) Machiavellianism scores are associated with more (less) intentional tax noncompliance. In contrast to these two tax studies, the present study applies the Machiavellianism scale to experienced taxpayers, who disagree with (do not support) how government spends their tax dollars.
 
8
It is important to note that the tax compliance decision is not always an individual one, per se. In an individualist nation like the U.S. (the focus of our study), people tend to act as individuals and not as members of a group (Hofstede, 2001). This contrasts with how an individual in a collectivist country might respond to a typical tax compliance dilemma. In collectivist countries, concern for the in-group—a person’s circle of family, friends, or peers—can often override written laws, especially if the laws conflict with a more powerful group behavioral code (Hofstede, 2001; Husted 1999). Therefore, more collectivist countries’ enforcement and individuals’ compliance may be more likely to occur within instead of outside the in-group (Andriani et al., 2022), resulting in significantly different behavior than in a more individualist country like the U.S. For example, while fines and penalties may be effective in the U.S., these punishments might not have the same deterrent effect in more collectivist countries, where tax noncompliance is common practice (e.g., Andriani et al., 2022; Richardson, 2008).
 
9
This study has been granted approval by the Institutional Review Boards at the authors’ universities.
 
10
All participants viewed questions related to both programs. The order of the two federal programs was varied between subjects, and a distractor task (answering demographic questions) was placed between the scenarios. No significant order effects were found.
 
11
Defense and healthcare programs were chosen, because they are both psychologically and economically meaningful, in that not only are they programs that receive diverse taxpayer support, but are also the two largest programs in the federal budget that taxpayers would take into consideration. Since all participants provide responses to both programs, we would expect them to consider both to coexist (as they do in the actual budget), and to support one, both, or neither.
 
12
Asking taxpayers to consider federal budget programs while making their compliance decision is a conscious design choice to make the experiment representative of what many taxpayers are exposed to during the tax filing season through media/news outlets, and typical of what may be on their minds when preparing their tax returns. Arguably, this choice may create demand effects for a relationship between support and compliance. However, since this relationship has already been established in prior literature, we were more concerned with establishing a baseline main effect to create conditions to examine the moderating effects of audit probability (H1) and taxpayer ethics (Machiavellianism) (H2) on taxpayer support.
 
13
OLS regression also avoids the need to artificially categorize (i.e., median split) the continuous independent variables (Support and Ethics), which is an information-losing transformation that reduces statistical power and may increase the Type I error rate (Hayes, 2018).
 
14
To provide more meaningful interpretation of the main (conditional) effects and interactions in the regression analysis, the continuous independent variables, taxpayer support (Support) and taxpayer ethics (Ethics), are mean-centered, while the categorical independent variable, audit probability (Audit), is effects coded (− 1, low or 1, high) (Hayes, 2018).
 
15
The Cronbach alpha values (for both Support and Ethics) exceed the standard for satisfactory scale reliability (i.e., 0.70; see Kline, 1999; Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). In comparison, the mean (median) Ethics score in the Ghosh and Crane (1996) study on tax compliance was 86.76 (86).
 
16
The pick-a-point approach for probing interactions requires the selection of low and high values (groups) of the moderator variable and estimating the effect of the focal predictor at those values (Aiken & West, 1991).
 
17
In the absence of data normality, using the 16th and 84th percentiles of the distribution rather than mean plus/minus one standard deviation, guarantees that the values of the low and high groups are within the range of the observed data, regardless of the shape of the distribution (Hayes, 2018).
 
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Metadaten
Titel
How Government Spending Impacts Tax Compliance
verfasst von
Diana Falsetta
Jennifer K. Schafer
George T. Tsakumis
Publikationsdatum
22.03.2023
Verlag
Springer Netherlands
Erschienen in
Journal of Business Ethics / Ausgabe 2/2024
Print ISSN: 0167-4544
Elektronische ISSN: 1573-0697
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-023-05383-3

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