Peer Reviewed Publications

Gender, Social Value Orientation, and Tax Compliance in Cesifo Economic Studies (With Clara Volitiru and Antoine Maleziuex)

This article brings an important empirical contribution to the academic literature by examining whether gender differences in tax compliance are due to higher prosociality among women. We conducted a large cross-national tax compliance experiment carried out in different countries—Italy, UK, USA, Sweden, and Romania. We uncover that women declare a significantly higher percentage of their income than men in all five countries. While some scholars have argued that differences in honesty between men and women are mediated by prosociality, we find that women are not more prosocial than men in all countries and we do not find a mediating effect of prosocial behaviour on tax compliance. Though tax evasion is a form of dishonesty, the tax compliance experiment is quite different from an honesty experiment, which is certainly one explanation for the different results. We conclude that although differences in prosociality between men and women seem to be context-dependent, differences in tax compliance are indeed much more consistent. Full Text

More Bang for Your Buck: Tax Compliance in the United States and Italy in Journal of Public Policy. 2020.

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 cross country variation in tax compliance, by asking subjects to make country-specific tax decisions.

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Trust in government: Narrowing the ideological gap over the federal budget in Journal of Behavioral Public Administration (with Kim-Lee Tuxhorn and Sven Steinmo). 2019.

Do liberals and conservatives who trust the government have more similar preferences regarding the federal budget than liberals and conservatives who do not? Prior research has shown that the ideological gap over spending increases and tax cuts narrows at high levels of trust in government. We extend this litera- ture by examining whether the dampening effect of trust operates when more difficult budgetary decisions (spending cuts and tax increases) have to be made. Although related, a tax increase demands greater material and ideological sacrifice from individuals than tax cuts. The same logic can be applied to support for spending cuts. We test the trust-as-heuristic hypothesis using measures of revealed budgetary preferences from a pop- ulation-based survey containing an embedded budget simulation. Our findings show that trusting liberals and conservatives share similar preferences toward spending cuts and tax increases, adding an important empirical addendum to a theory based on sacrificial costs.

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What explains the North–South divide in Italian tax compliance? An experimental analysis in Acta Politica. 2019.

I undertake a comparative study assessing the North–South divide in Italian tax compliance, employing the largest behavioral tax compliance experiment to date. Contrary to a large body of literature, I argue that willingness to pay taxes is constructed within a specific institutional environment and reflects the country’s quality of institutions. To test this hypothesis, I use controlled tax compliance experiments from four laboratories in Capua, Rome, Bologna, and Milan. By employing the experimental method, I am able to hold institutions constant allowing me to isolate cultural variation. Contrary to cultural explanations for tax compliance, when controlling the institutional environment, there is no difference in tax compliance. Furthermore, using social value orientation to compare prosociality, I also find no differences between the two regions. I therefore conclude that individuals’ relationship to their states shapes these behavioral differences in tax compliance.

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The Role of Gender in the Provision of Public Goods through Tax Compliance in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (With David Bruner and Sven Steinmo). 2018.

The existing experimental literature suggests women are more compliant than men when paying taxes but may free ride more when contributing to public goods. It is unclear which effect dominates when paying for public goods through taxation. Experiments conducted in three European countries and the U.S. are used to investigate this issue. The results suggest the compliance effect dominates the free riding effect such that women pay more for public goods, although men are more willing to contribute. Moreover, the data analysis reveals the gender gap in compliance is due to differences in both the extensive and intensive margins. Full Text

Willing to Share? Tax Compliance and Gender in Europe and America in  Research & Politics (with Clara Volintiru and Sven Steinmo). 2017.

Studies examining the effects of gender on honesty, deceptive behavior, pro-sociality, and risk aversion, often find significant differences between men and women.  The present study contributes to the debate by exploiting one of the largest tax compliance experiments to date in a highly controlled environment conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Italy. Our expectation was that the differences between men and women’s behavior would correlate broadly with the degree of gender equality in each country.  In other words, where social, political and cultural gender equality is greater we expected behavioral differences between men and women to be smaller. In contrast, our evidence reveals that women are significantly more compliant than men in all countries. Furthermore, these patterns are quite consistent across countries in our study. In other words, the difference between men’s and women’s behavior is not significantly different in more gender neutral countries than in more traditional societies. Full Text: Willing to Share

Divided Nation: The North-South Cleavage in Italian Tax Compliance in Polity. 2017. 

 It is well known that tax compliance is low in Italy, and lower in the South than in the North. Many scholars have examined Italian taxpayer behavior, mainly using experiments and surveys. However, little attention has been given to the historical circumstances that have shaped divergent taxpayer behavior by Northern and Southern Italians. This article uses historical data from Italian unification through the Second Republic to assess the effects of Italy’s major formal institutions (the church, state, and political parties) and informal institutions (clientelism) on Italian tax behavior. It argues that nineteenth-century unification had significant repercussions on the two most important institutions in Italy—the Catholic Church and the state—and hence led to two different kinds of clientelism. Since Southern clientelism favored private interests and Northern clientelism led to the construction of public institutions, this created two different tax compliance environments.

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Are some countries more honest than others? Evidence from a tax compliance experiment in Sweden and Italy in Frontiers in Psychology. (with Giulia Andrighetto, Stefania Ottone, Ferruccio Ponzano, Nan Zhang, and Sven Steinmo). 2016.

This study examines cultural differences in ordinary dishonesty between Italy and Sweden, two countries with different reputations for trustworthiness and probity. Exploiting a set of cross-cultural tax compliance experiments, we find that the average level of tax evasion (as a measure of ordinary dishonesty) does not differ significantly between Swedes and Italians. However, we also uncover differences in national “styles” of dishonesty. Specifically, while Swedes are more likely to be either completely honest or completely dishonest in their fiscal declarations, Italians are more prone to fudging (i.e. cheating by a small amount). We discuss the implications of these findings for the evolution and enforcement of honesty norms Full text-Are_Some_Countries_More_Honest_than_Others

“Hegemony or Dominance: A Gramscian Analysis of US Ascendancy.”  in Critique: A Worldwide Journal of Politics. 2011.

Hegemony, for Antonio Gramsci, is the use of consent and coercion in order to establish control over a population or a state. It is this balance between the two that is fundamental to Gramsci’s theory. Furthermore, the distinction between two types of intellectuals, traditional and organic, is central to the diffusion of elite ideology and obtaining the consent of the masses. First, this study surveys the various Gramscian and neo-Gramscian literature, which develops the background for my central argument. The following section briefly examines the construction of a “common sense” in America focusing on two fundamental aspects: American exceptionalism and Liberalism. Finally, my study takes a critical look at American policy during the Regan Administration, specifically focusing on Ronald Reagan’s ability to assume the role as an intellectual, used in the Gramscian tradition. However, I argue, although Ronald Reagan recaptured the common sense of the American people, manipulation and coercion were instrumental in reestablishing American dominance. Thus, power during the Reagan administration lacked a critical element of hegemony, consent, and can no longer be defined as hegemony in the Gramscian sense. Full Text

Policy Briefs

TARC on Tax Morale – A Consultation Letter to the OECD

The Tax Administration Research Centre at the University of Exeter has submitted a response to the OECD’s Public Consultation Document on ‘Tax Morale’.

Read the TARC Tax Morale Response