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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: January 2010

7 - Cautious conclusions

Summary

Tax non-compliance is a universal phenomenon. It takes place in all societies, in all social strata, in all professions, in all industries, in all religions and in virtually all economic systems. Scholars as far back as Plato wrote about the phenomenon. In the fifteenth-century Ducal Palace of Venice, there is a stone with a hole in it, through which people could inform the Republic about tax evaders (Adams, 1993; Tanzi and Shome, 1994). Governments as far back as ancient Egypt have struggled to maintain compliance with tax laws. Indeed, it has been suggested that tax resistance has played a significant role in the collapse of several major world orders, including the Egyptian, Roman, Spanish and Aztec empires (Erard, 1997). It is therefore surprising how little attention this phenomenon had received until recent years. Only during the past twenty-five years has the subject of tax compliance come into its own as a research area within economics. Since then, the number of studies on tax behaviour has significantly increased, as has the diversity of methods used to study evasion. This, however, is also an issue of concern since the results obtained by different measures are heterogeneous, due to difficulties of measurement, because ‘individuals often undertake substantial efforts to conceal their evasion’ (Andreoni, Erard and Feinstein, 1998, p. 836), but also to methodological biases. Moreover, most findings originate from studies conducted in the United States, which limits generalisability of results.

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