Skip to main content Accessibility help

More bang for your buck: tax compliance in the United States and Italy

  • John D’Attoma (a1)


I investigate the relationship between perception of public institutions and tax compliance using a large tax compliance laboratory experiment conducted in Italy and the United States. In the first test, I conduct a simple tax compliance game to uncover that given the exact same decisions, contributions to the public good do not differ between Italy and the United States. Second, I ask participants to pay taxes to their national government, pension fund and fire department. In these rounds, behaviours diverge with Italian participants complying significantly less than Americans. Theoretically, I provide evidence demonstrating that how individuals perceive their institutions is a crucial component of the tax compliance decision. Methodologically, I provide a unique experiment, which can help us to better explain crosscountry variation in tax compliance, by asking subjects to make country-specific tax decisions.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      More bang for your buck: tax compliance in the United States and Italy
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      More bang for your buck: tax compliance in the United States and Italy
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      More bang for your buck: tax compliance in the United States and Italy
      Available formats


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All
Alesina, A Glaeser, EL (2004) Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Allingham, M Sandmo, A (1972) Income Tax Evasion: A Theoretical Analysis. Journal of Public Economics 1(3): 323338.
Alm, J (2010) Testing Behavioral Public Economics Theories in the Laboratory. National Tax Journal 63(4): 635.
Alm, J, Bernasconi, M, Laury, S Lee, DJ (2017) Culture, Compliance, and Confidentiality: Taxpayer Behavior in the United States and Italy. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 140, 176196.
Alm, J, Bloomquist, KM McKee, M (2015) On the External Validity of Laboratory Tax Compliance Experiments. Economic Inquiry 53(2): 11701186.
Alm, J, Jackson, B McKee, M (1992) Deterrence and Beyond: Toward a Kinder, Gentler IRS. In Slemrod J (ed), Why People Pay Taxes: Tax Compliance and Enforcement. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 311329.
Alm, J, McKee, M Beck, W (1990) Amazing Grace: Tax Amnesties and Compliance. National Tax Journal. 43(1): 2337.
Alm, J, Sanchez, I De Juan, A (1995) Economic and Noneconomic Factors in Tax Compliance. Kyklos 48(1): 118.
Alm, J Torgler, B (2006) Culture Differences and Tax Morale in the United States and in Europe. Journal of Economic Psychology 27(2): 224246.
Almond, GA Verba, S (1963) The Civic Culture. In Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Andreoni, J, Erard, B Feinstein, J (1998) Tax Compliance. Journal of Economic Literature 36(2): 818860.
Andrighetto, G, Zhang, N, Ottone, S, Ponzano, F, D’Attoma, J Steinmo, S (2016) Are Some Countries More Honest than Others? Evidence from a Tax Compliance Experiment in Sweden and Italy. Frontiers in Psychology 7, 472.
Arentze, T, Borgers, A, Timmermans, H DelMistro, R (2003) Transport Stated Choice Responses: Effects of Task Complexity, Presentation Format and Literacy. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review 39(3): 229244.
Banfield, E (1967) The Moral Basis of a Backward Society. Glencoe: Free Press.
Bergman, M (2009) Tax Evasion and the Rule of Law in Latin America: The Political Culture of Cheating and Compliance in Argentina and Chile. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Bradley, M Daly, A (1994) Use of the Logit Scaling Approach to Test for Rank-Order and Fatigue Effects in Stated Preference Data. Transportation 21(2): 167184.
Braithwaite, V (ed) (2003) Dancing with Tax Authorities: Motivational Postures and Non-compliant Actions. Taxing democracy: Understanding tax avoidance and evasion. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1539.
Braithwaite, J Makkai, T (1994) Trust and Compliance. Policing and Society: An International Journal 4(1): 112.
Brazell, J Louviere, J (1997) Respondent’s Help, Learning and Fatigue. In INFORMS Marketing Science Conference. Berkeley: University of California.
Bruner, DM, D’Attoma, J Steinmo, S (2017) The role of gender in the provision of public goods through tax compliance. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics 71, 4555.
Carlsson, F, Mørkbak, MR Olsen, SB (2012) The First Time Is the Hardest: A Test of Ordering Effects in Choice Experiments. Journal of Choice Modelling 5(2): 1937.
Czajkowski, M, Giergiczny, M Greene, WH (2014) Learning and Fatigue Effects Revisited: Investigating the Effects of Accounting for Unobservable Preference and Scale Heterogeneity. Land Economics 90(2): 324351.
D’Attoma, J (2017) Divided Nation: The North-South Cleavage in Italian Tax Compliance. Polity 49(1): 6999.
D’Attoma, J (2018) Explaining Italian Tax Compliance. In The Leap of Faith: The Fiscal Foundations of Successful Government in Europe and America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 106.
D’Attoma, J, Volintiru, C Steinmo, S (2017) Willing to Share? Tax Compliance and Gender in Europe and America. Research & Politics 4(2): 2053168017707151.
Day, B, Bateman, IJ, Carson, RT, Dupont, D, Louviere, JJ, Morimoto, S, Scarpa, R Wang, P (2012) Ordering Effects and Choice Set Awareness in Repeat-Response Stated Preference Studies. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 63(1): 7391.
Dubin, JA Wilde, LL (1988) An Empirical Analysis of Federal Income Tax Auditing and Compliance. National Tax Journal 41(1): 6174.
Esping-Andersen, G (2013) The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: John Wiley & Sonos.
Feld, L Frey, B (2002) Trust Breeds Trust: How Taxpayers are Treated. Economics of Governance 3(2): 8799.
Frey, B Feld, L (2002) Deterrence and Morale in Taxation: An Empirical Analysis. Technical Report CESifo Working Paper No. 760.
Frey, B Torgler, B (2007) Tax Morale and Conditional Cooperation. Journal of Comparative Economics 35(1): 136159.
Gërxhani, K (2007) Explaining Gender Differences in Tax Evasion: The Case of Tirana, Albania. Feminist Economics 13(2): 119155.
Giese, S Hoffmann, A (2000) “Tax Evasion and Risky Investments in an Intertemporal Context: An Experimental Study.” Discussion Papers, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
Graetz, M Wilde, L (1985) The Economics of Tax Compliance: Fact and Fantasy. National Tax Journal 38(3): 355363.
Greiner, B (2004) The Online Recruitment System ORSEE 2.0. – A Guide for the Organization of Experiments in Economics. University of Cologne, Working Paper Series in Economics 10(23): 63104.
Harrison, GW, Johnson, E, McInnes, MM Rutström, EE (2005) Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects: Comment. American Economic Review 95(3): 897901.
Kastlunger, B, Lozza, E, Kirchler, E Schabmann, A (2013) Powerful Authorities and Trusting Citizens: The Slippery Slope Framework and Tax Compliance in Italy. Journal of Economic Psychology 34, 3645.
Kirchler, E, Hoelzl, E Wahl, I (2008) Enforced Versus Voluntary Tax Compliance: The “Slippery Slope” Framework. Journal of Economic Psychology 29(2): 210225.
Kuhn, A (2012) Redistributive Preferences, Redistribution, and Inequality: Evidence from a Panel of OECD Countries. Working Paper No. 84.
Lambsdorff, JG (1999) The Transparency International corruption perceptions index 1999–Framework document. Transparency International, Berlin. www. transparency. de [13.12. 00].
Levi, M (1989) Of Rule and Revenue. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Levi, M (1997) Consent, Dissent, and Patriotism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Levi, M (1998) A State of Trust. Trust and Governance 1, 77101.
Levi, M, Sacks, A Tyler, T (2009) Conceptualizing Legitimacy, Measuring Legitimating Beliefs. American Behavioral Scientist 53(3): 354375.
Lewis, A, Carrera, S, Cullis, J Jones, P (2009) Individual, Cognitive and Cultural Differences in Tax Compliance: UK and Italy Compared. Journal of Economic Psychology 30(3): 431445.
Lipset, SM (1997) American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. WW Norton & Company.
Montgomery, JM, Nyhan, B Torres, M (2016) How Conditioning on Post-treatment Variables Can Ruin Your Experiment and What to Do About It. Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, April.
Murphy, K (2004) The Role of Trust in Nurturing Compliance: A Study of Accused Tax Avoiders. Law and Human Behavior 28(2): 187.
North, DC (1991) Institutions. Journal of Economic Perspectives 5(1): 97112.
OECD (2016) Social Protection – Social Spending – OECD Data. (accessed 10 September 2017).
Oppewal, H, Morrison, M, Wang, P Waller, D (2010) Preference Stability: Modeling How Consumer Preferences Shift After Receiving New Product Information. In Choice Modelling: The State-of-the-Art and the State-of-Practice: Proceedings from the Inaugural International Choice Modelling Conference. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 499–516.
Pampel, F, Andrighetto, G Steinmo, S (2018) How Institutions and Attitudes Shape Tax Compliance: a Cross-National Experiment and Survey. Social Forces soy083,
Pommerehne, W, Hart, A Frey, B (1994) Tax Morale, Tax Evasion and the Choice of Policy Instruments in Different Political Systems. Public Finance 49(Supplement): 5269.
Putnam, R, Leonardi, R Nanetti, R (1994) Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rainie, L, Purcell, K, Siesfeld, T Mayur, P (2011) How the Public Perceives Community Information Systems. (accessed 10 September 2017).
Ross, ML (2004) Does Taxation Lead to Representation? British Journal of Political Science 34(02): 229249.
Rothstein, B (1998) Just Institutions Matter: The Moral and Political Logic of the Universal Welfare State. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Santoro, A Fiorio, CV (2010) Taxpayer Behavior When Audit Rules Are Known: Evidence from Italy. Public Finance Review 39(1): 103123.
Scheufele, G Bennett, J (2013) Effects of Alternative Elicitation Formats in Discrete Choice Experiments. Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 57(2): 214233.
Scholz, J Lubell, M (1998) Trust and Taxpaying: Testing the Heuristic Approach to Collective Action. American Journal of Political Science 42(2): 398417.
Smith, KW Stalans, LJ (1991) Encouraging Tax Compliance with Positive Incentives: A Conceptual Framework and Research Directions. Law & Policy 13(1): 3553.
Stanley, L Hartman, TK (2018) Tax Preferences, Fiscal Transparency, and the Meaning of Welfare: An Experimental Study. Political Studies 66(4): p 0032321717731661.
Steinmo, SH (2018) The Leap of Faith: The Fiscal Foundations of Successful Government in Europe and America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Steinmo, S, Thelen, K Longstreth, F, eds. (1992) Structuring Politics: Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tabellini, G (2010) Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe. Journal of the European Economic Association 8(4): 677716.
Tax Policy Center (2017) Tax Policy Center Briefing Book. Tax Policy Center.
Torgler, B (2002) Direct Democracy Matters: Tax Morale and Political Participation. Annual Conference on Taxation and Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the National Tax Association. National Tax Association.
Torgler, B (2006) The Importance of Faith: Tax Morale and Religiosity. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 61(1): 81109.
Torgler, B (2007) Tax Compliance and Tax Morale: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis. Glos, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Torgler, B Schneider, F (2009) The Impact of Tax Morale and Institutional Quality on the Shadow Economy. Journal of Economic Psychology 30(2): 228245.
Torgler, B Valev, N (2006) Corruption and Age. Journal of Bioeconomics 8(2): 133145.
Wahl, I, Kastlunger, B Kirchler, E (2010) Trust in Authorities and Power to Enforce Tax Compliance: An Empirical Analysis of the Slippery Slope Framework. Law & Policy 32(4): 383406.
Wike, R, Simmons, K, Stokes, B Fetterolf, J (2017) Many Unhappy with Current Political System. (accessed 10 July 2018).
Zhang, N, Andrighetto, G, Ottone, S, Ponzano, F Steinmo, S (2016) Willing to Pay? Tax Compliance in Britain and Italy: An Experimental Analysis. PLoS One 11(2): e0150277.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

D’Attoma Dataset

Supplementary materials

D’Attoma supplementary material
D’Attoma supplementary material

 PDF (1.4 MB)
1.4 MB
Supplementary materials

D’Attoma supplementary material

 PDF (415 KB)
415 KB

More bang for your buck: tax compliance in the United States and Italy

  • John D’Attoma (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.