The Effect of Friendly Persuasion and Gender on Tax Compliance Behavior

Journal of Business Ethics 47 (2):133 - 145 (2003)
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Friendly persuasion, in contrast to deterrent measures like tax audits and penalties on underreported taxes, is a positive and possibly a cost effective method of increasing taxpayer compliance. However, prior studies have failed to show that friendly persuasion has a significant impact on compliance (Blumenthal et al., 2001; McGraw and Scholz, 1991). In our study, in contrast to prior studies, we examine the impact of generating and reading reasons supporting compliance as friendly persuasion on individuals' income reporting behavior as well as control for gender effects. Specifically, we predict an interaction effect between friendly persuasion and gender on compliance behavior. We carried out a 2 (friendly persuasion and control) × 2 (men and women) full factorial experiment, where participants earned $30 by completing two questionnaires. Participants in the friendly persuasion group were required first to generate and second to read a list of reasons why they should comply fully. Afterwards, participants in both groups were asked to report the income they earned and pay tax on the reported income. The results show a significant main effect for gender as well as a significant interaction effect between gender and friendly persuasion on income reported. Women in the friendly persuasion group reported significantly higher income compared to men in that group. Other comparisons were not significant. Policy implications for increasing taxpayers' ethics and compliance are highlighted.



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