Are individuals’ attitudes about paying taxes consistent with their behavior? A direct link between attitudes (tax morale) and behavior (tax compliance) has long been assumed, despite an extensive social scientific literature attesting to the generally weak congruence between the two. This study builds on an emerging body of work questioning the link between tax morale and compliance. It innovates with a cross-national experimental research design whose results indicate that populations with high levels of tax morale exhibit higher evasion rates than those with low levels of tax morale; thus, the study finds that individual self-reported tax morale cannot predict actual evasion choices. Methodologically, the paper contributes the first results of a laboratory experiment on taxation in Denmark, comparing them to laboratory findings from Italy; while previous research indicates that these two countries lie at opposite extremes in tax compliance and morale, our findings run contrary to “culturalist” explanations. Our results show that Danes are more likely to evade tax than Italians, and that individuals’ attitudes toward tax do not significantly predict their actual evasion choices. Finally, we show that discrepancies in tax behavior between Italian and Danish subjects are affected by gender and risk aversion.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 5. November 2018
- Tax compliance
- Tax morale
- Cross-national comparison