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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: May 2021

55 - Strengthening Tax Compliance by Balancing Authorities’ Power and Trustworthiness

from Part IX - Analysis of Particular Fields


Abstract: The traditional economic approach to enforcing tax compliance rests on the assumption that taxpayers are reluctant to pay their share, are inclined to maximize their egoistic goals by rationally considering audit probability and fines in case of detected evasion, and comply only if forced to. Behavioral economic and psychological insights draw a more complex picture of determinants of compliance and point to differences between taxpayers and their inclination to be compliant, which calls for differential strategies to ensure compliance rather than a one-size-fits-all strategy. This chapter describes actors in the tax arena and interaction dynamics. Interaction is shaped by the power of the authorities and their trustworthiness, which, combined, are the underlying dimensions of the tax climate. As conceptualized in the slippery slope framework and its extension, it is argued that a distinction between coercive and legitimate power, and between reason-based trust and implicit trust, is necessary to understand the interaction dynamics. Subsequently, emotions elicited by the power of the authorities and their trustworthiness are described, followed by speculations about the impact on compliance of anger, fear or feelings of protection and security. Finally, strategies to shift from control to cooperation are summarized.