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Tax Compliance
3.1 Tax Avoidance 3.2 Tax Evasion 3.3 Corruption and Extortion 3.4 Literature

The Effects of Tax Noncompliance
Tax avoidance means making use of legal loopholes in the tax codes. Usually this requires costly services of specialized tax consultants and is, thus, only amenable to wealthy taxpayers. Tax avoidance encompasses making use of tax credits, itemizing expenses, making use of choosing the legal form of enterprises, choosing one‟s residence, choosing one‟s profession, etc. Tax evasion is the illegal concealment of parts of the tax basis, or the concealment of taxable economic activities altogether. If it is discovered, the convicted taxpayer has not only to pay the evaded taxes, but also a fine, or have even to face being sentenced to jail. Of course, if tax evasion were discovered with certainty, it would not occur. Rather there is a probability of less than one that it is discovered; consequently, taxpayers‟ strategies depend on their risk attitudes. Corruption and extortion occurs when dishonest tax inspectors enter the scene. They need to be bribed to report understated taxes to their superiors; this is corruption. On the other hand, they may extort taxpayers to pay them a bribe to induce them to abstain from reporting overstated taxes to their superiors; this is extortion.

Tax noncompliance winds up resources and causes an additional deadweight loss of taxation. Tax noncompliance imply higher taxes to secure a given tax revenue. This reinforces deadweight loss, as taxes become more distorting.

Tax noncompliance also affects tax incidence and changes tax progression. In the majority of cases it works in the direction of making the tax system less progressive (more regressive) as it benefits the upper income echelons.
Tax noncompliance may also affect occupational choice, human capital investment, and labor supply. Tax enforcement is also a problem of law enforcement. Hence, tax compliance is a central issue of the economics of taxation.

) and assume that Θ is a legally avoided part of income which reduces the tax base. . In case of a flat tax all taxpayers declaring income above the personal allowance will avoid the same amount of income since the marginal tax rate is a constant.1 Tax Avoidance Assume first that income y is exogenous (or that labor supply is fixed). that is. additional legal reductions of the tax base require higher cost. assume that C(Θ) is the cost of avoidance. assume a tax schedule T(.3. under a graduated (progressive) income tax the rich will avoid more taxes than the poorer taxpayers. Then the first-order condition of tax avoidance results from maximizing the next expression with respect to Θ: This yields the first-order condition: (1) Thus. Furthermore. Assume first that C(Θ) is increasing and convex. Hence. richer taxpayers avoid a smaller proportion of their income than the poorer taxpayers. which makes taxation in effect more progressive than without tax avoidance.

Then marginal avoidance cost may be too high for poorer taxpayers. all taxpayers avoid the same amount of income under a flat tax. it does not pay for poor taxpayers to avoid taxes. but possibly also for a flat tax. the richer taxpayers avoid more income from taxation. because an efficient tax consultant may have a high fixed cost). (2) (3) . This scenario seems to be the most realistic model. after a point of inflection. such a model lacks realism. convex. Under this model.g. For richer taxpayers it pays to avoid all taxes irrespective of the tax schedule. Of course. Under a graduated (progressive) tax. but beyond the level of income at which T′(y-Θ)=C′(Θ). This means that C(Θ) is first concave and. primarily for a graduated income tax.For C(Θ) increasing and concave this implies that tax avoidance has economies of scale (e.. We may thus assume that C(Θ) is ogivalshaped [counter S-shaped].

C1>0. If they have a closer look at higher incomes (which might be more closely checked) then C1>0 would be the appropriate assumption. let us write C1 for ∂C/∂wℓ. C1. i. the taxpayer decides simultaneously on his or her labor supply and the amount of labor income to be avoided from the tax base. What is the consequence for declared income (wℓ-Θ)? Its development depends jointly on C12 and C22. has diminishing returns. As to the second derivatives. The cost function of tax avoidance now depends on labor income and the part of it to be avoided: C(wℓ.In this model. and so on. declared income (wℓ-Θ) increases with increasing true labor income wℓ. C2 for ∂C/∂Θ. It is plausible to assume C1<0 because Θ*/wℓ diminishes as wℓ rises and the tax authorities may more likely connive at a smaller fraction of income being avoided. we have C1<0. The sign of C1 is not clear a priori. C21=C12 is crucial. Then the decrease of the cost of tax avoidance due to higher income is less than the increase of the cost of tax avoidance due to more avoidance. As tax avoidance involves cost. as it captures the interaction between true labor income and tax avoidance. When it is easier to avoid a given amount Θ* for higher incomes. . we have unambiguously C2>0. C22>0 means that the marginal cost of tax avoidance is increasing. In this case. For short.e. C11>0 holds when the “avoidance-facilitating” property of true labor income. Consider –C12<C22. when it is more difficult.Θ). This implies that Θ increases with wℓ. C21<0 means that higher incomes make tax avoidance less costly.

The critical aspect of this more general model is that the term (-wC1) changes the net-of-tax wage rate. therefore. the net-of-tax wage rate is diminished by the waning possibility of avoiding taxes for higher incomes.ℓ)-diagram is no longer necessarily straight. When C1>0. When C1<0. equals the net-of-tax wage rate. more informal. For further analysis see Slemrod (2001) and. A further complication in this analysis comes from the fact that C1 may itself depend on ℓ. . combines the more technological effects of tax avoidance (of the former model) with the behavioral effects of income and labor preferences which are subjective traits of the taxpayer. the net-of-tax wage rate includes an implicit subsidy to working equal to (-wC1). due to the fact that working more lowers the cost of avoiding taxes by that amount. Slemrod and Yitzhaki (2002). This model. which means that the budget line in the (v. Condition (4) corresponds to the usual one that labor supply is optimal when the marginal rate of substitution of labor for income. -U2/U1. This makes the analysis somewhat complicated and dependent on the parameters of taxpayer reaction.(4) (5) Condition (5) is the well-known condition of our initial model: tax avoidance should be expanded until its marginal cost equals the marginal tax rate.

Tax evasion is the (illegal) attempt of a taxpayer to establish the official promise of tax equity on an individual basis. Helmar Nahr .

higher for higher marginal utility of consumption) • Tax noncompliance means higher excess burden of taxation • Tax avoidance: marginal tax rate equal to marginal costs of avoidance. lower for higher supply response. in the more general model the impact of income on costs of tax avoidance is also given attention: it is either a subsidy or an additional cost • We started to discuss tax evasion • Crash course on von Neumann – Morgenstern utility functions . lower for small value of shadow price of self-selection constraint. lower for high-productivity groups.Taxation Economics: Short Account of Sixth Lecture • Asymmetric information: optimum income taxation: general case (marginal tax rate lower for high population density.

2 Tax Evasion Tax evasion means that part of the income (or of some other tax base) is not declared. We follow the basic paper by Allingham and Sandmo (1972). Let y denote true income (income is supposed to be exogenously given or is supposed to result from a fixed labor supply). It is illegal and implies. in extreme cases. t a proportional tax rate. and let U(. where f>t. if discovered. x declared income. a fine which can. π the probability of tax audit (which will disclose true income).3.) denote the taxpayer‟s von Neumann-Morgenstern utility function. also imply jail. income if no tax audit income in case of tax audit . f the penalty rate on undeclared income (y-x).


at the point where the true income is declared. Hence. For further analysis we make use of the Arrow-Pratt risk aversion measures. Hence. (3) means that. we will concentrate on them in the following. it pays to declare less than full income. it pays to declare more income.! (2) implies that the marginal utility of the saved expected tax from declaring no income is less than the marginal utility of the residual income after the fine in case of tax audit. Hence. the expected fine is less than the tax rate. interior solutions are well defined. absolute and relative risk aversion .

y and .

However.By decreasing absolute risk aversion we have RA(v)<RA(z). We have . the sign of the bracketed expression depends on the value of f. Let us now have a look at the fraction of true income declared as true income changes. The temptation to evade taxes with rising income is less the higher the fine is. Only if f≥1 is the derivative unambiguously positive. Note that ∂x/∂y increases as the fine f increases.

For decreasing absolute risk aversion there is no clearcut hypothesis as to the relationship between reported income and the tax rate. This yields The second term is negative.This shows that. constant. or decreases as relative risk aversion is an increasing. zero or negative according as absolute risk aversion is decreasing. or decreasing function of income. stays constant. the fraction declared increases. or increasing. as true income varies. the first term is positive. Now differentiate (1) with respect to t. constant. .

which. Differentiating (1) with respect to the penalty rate f yields: Both terms are positive so that an increase in the penalty rate will always increase declared income. The latter is negative. . under decreasing absolute risk aversion. Differentiating (1) with respect to the audit probability π yields This derivative is positive: an increase in the audit probability increases declared income.We can regard the two terms in (8) as the income effect and the substitution effect. because an increase in the tax rate makes it more profitable to evade taxes on the margin. which reduces both v and z for any level of x. this tends to increase declared income. respectively. tends to reduce taxation. The former is positive because an increased tax rate makes the taxpayer less wealthy.

(y-x). when the fine is imposed on the evaded tax (which is the case in most countries). However. then some of the Allingham-Sandmo results change.Yitzhaki (1974) has argued that some of the Allingham-Sandmo results are due to their assumption that their fine applies to the difference between true and declared income. Yitzhaki states the following problem: the taxpayer chooses x to maximize .

.These are the effects of a more realistic penalty function.

which define a threshold value of income and a policy to audit any report below the threshold with probability π and leave all tax returns above this threshold unaudited.Allingham and Sandmo analyze also the dynamic case: tax returns are filed at discrete times and individuals live infinitely. there is no more danger of discovering the past sins of tax evasion. Erard. Later research has endogenized labor supply into models of tax evasion. all past tax returns are corrected and the full tax amounts are charged to the taxpayer. the effects of the enforcement variable all become ambiguous. several models suggest cut-off rules. Concerning optimal audit rules. If tax evasion is discovered in a period. . In addition to theoretical work. many field studies and experimental studies were carried out in the area of tax evasion. For a survey of this work see Andreoni. Once full income report has been achieved. The basic result is that the optimal strategy is to declare more and more income as time proceeds because the past evaded taxes accumulate. which result from the backward bending labor supply curve. We do not go into details. The probability π is chosen to be just large enough so that all taxpayers with true incomes below the threshold report honestly. Models have been proposed with a multitude of thresholds according to the various professions. All taxpayers with true incomes above the threshold report the threshold and pay taxes accordingly. and Feinstein (1998). With labor supply in the model.

This is the extreme form of a commission for the tax inspector.3 Corruption and Extortion We consider a model by Hindriks. and Muthoo (1999) of the encounter between a taxpayer and a tax inspector. The model is a three-stage game. . but only its distribution. Stage 1: The government announces the tax scheme. Both I and P are risk neutral. both potentially corruptible. Remark: A method of tax collection throughout most of recorded history has been tax farming: the tax inspector pays the government a fixed fee in return for the right to retain all revenue legitimately collected. consisting of: The government does not know y.3. Keen. the tax inspector gets his or her reservation wage anyway – it is normalized to zero.

π is exogenous and independent of the income reported. I unilaterally reports z. 0<π<1. (unless it was the subject of appeal in stage 2). i. The taxpayer P is given the opportunity to appeal against the income z reported by I.Stage 2: Income reporting and appeal. They bargain according to a game form with two outcomes: ii. and the taxpayer P pays him a bribe B. Appeals are always successful: P‟s true income is revealed and the liability restored to the correct level. The taxpayer‟s income y becomes common knowledge of the taxpayer and the tax inspector.B). they fail to reach an agreement. But appealing incurs a fixed cost for P of α≥0. With probability π. as there is no agreement. I‟s report is audited by an honest tax attorney and P‟s income is revealed for sure. . iii. Stage 3: Audit by an honest tax attorney. such that the tax inspector I certifies to the government that the true income is x. they reach an agreement (x. no bribe is paid.


Bargaining equilibrium: We start by solving the game by P‟s strategy as to whether or not to appeal when no agreement was reached. . P will not appeal when Hence it can never be in the interest of the tax inspector to over-report P‟s income such that P will appeal.

When I and P reach agreement.In case of no agreement the tax inspector will maximize the expected payoff such that the constraint (3) is satisfied. Call this report z. which simply determines its distribution between I and P. Then expected equilibrium payoffs in the event of no agreement are: We call them disagreement payoffs. .B) is Pareto efficient if x maximizes the surplus Note that the surplus is independent of the bribe. an agreement (x.

[This unlikely case may occur if the commission to the tax inspector is so high that it pays for him to pay a bribe to P to accept overreporting of his income.P. Note that the disagreement payoffs and the possibility of appeal have no impact on the income report.] Hence.Suppose x maximizes (6). Thus. This implies as z is also a feasible value for (6) and may be agreed upon if it maximizes S(x. . they report x(y) and a bribe B(y) which makes them no worse off than under a disagreement payoff. Both fare better than in the disagreement game. but affect the negotiated bribe.y) for x=z. the tax inspector and the taxpayer reach agreement on an expected surplus-maximizing income. (7) shows that it is always possible to find a bribe such that for i=I.

The inspector‟s threat in the disagreement game will not involve under-reporting because he can do better by truthful reporting [(iii)]. Let us first exclude bargaining equilibria which ordain that income be over-stated and bribes being paid by the tax inspector to the taxpayer [this may result from rapidly increasing commission payments to the tax inspector]. If not audited. the inspector will need to be bribed [(iv)]. the collective payment of I and P is [1-λ(x)]T(x). Hence. Corruption means the payment of bribes. extortion and tax evasion Tax evasion means under-reporting of income. tax evasion and corruption may be quite different things. involving a loss of commission and facing potential penalties. he will have to receive some bribe to agree to submit an under-report [(ii)]. x(y)<y. B(y)≠0. . The following proposition rules such cases out. then overreporting can never maximize their surplus [(i)]. To tolerate tax evasion. If this increases with reported income.Corruption. An intuitive proof of this proposition is straightforward. If the inspector‟s commission λ(x)T(x) is increasing with the income reported.

] . However.Hence. Proposition 1/(iv) shows that tax evasion implies corruption in this model. There exist schemes for which (for some y) B(y)>0 even though x(y)=y. [Reported by Jain (1997) for India and by Klitgaard (1988) for the Philippines. The reason is that a taxpayer confronted with a tax inspector willing to over-report income will be willing to pay a bribe to prevent over-reporting of income. The bribe is then a manifestation of extortion. while in the case the taxpayer is an accomplice in evasion and corruption.] This situation is characterized by Then we have a victim of extortion. the converse is not true. [Note that victims can emerge only if the inspector is paid a commission and if appeals are sufficiently costly to the taxpayer.

• Then we started to discuss corruption and extortion. • Furthermore. There are possibilities of a master audit which reveals true income and the possibility of appeal by the taxpayer. we discussed the properties of a bargaining equilibrium and the difference between corruption and extortion. The first order conditions came from maximizing expected utility with respect to declared income.Taxation Economics: Short Account of Seventh Lecture • We discussed the Allingham-Sandmo model of tax evasion. . A taxpayer and a tax inspector may or may not reach agreement about paying a bribe for incorrect tax reporting. Then we used this condition to check how declared income depends on the exogenous parameters of this problem.

there are many tax schemes to achieve that.e. A tax scheme satisfying (8) and (9) is evasion-proof if .Evasion. which imply k≥0. It is more realistic to demand a limited liability constraint: Note that the first restriction excludes tax farming [i. If the government wants to maximize expected tax revenue.and corruption-proof tax régimes If penalties are unbound. Suppose then that the government wants to eliminate tax evasion.)≥0.. k<0] because T(0)=0 and fI(. the government can reach almost any goal.

Hence. are maximized if k=0. [1-λ(y)]T(y) –k.For an intuitive proof suppose that the government has decided to use the maximum penalties (8) and (9) for misconduct. either T(. . I and P jointly have to pay the amount [T+fI+fP-k-λT]=y.) is too high. If the tax schedule is such that [1-λ(y)]T(y) is higher than πy. or π is too low. Evasion-proofness requires equality. it pays to report x<y instead of y. The collective payment on a truthful report is [1-λ(y)]T(y). Then. the government„s net receipts from a truthful report. if an audit discovers misreported income. The expected payment is thus πy. when πy< [1-λ(y)]T(y). Second.


This is attained by raising the cost to the inspector in terms of foregone commission of conniving in an under-statement of income.Interpretation of Proposition 2: From (i) follows that πT(y)/y.e. but this requires that the commission rate λ(y) also increases with the income reported: A progressive tax schedule means that the tax saved by an under-statement of income is greater at higher incomes. i. i. Hence an increasing commission rate is needed to counter the greater incentive to evade taxes. [If we dispense with the assumption of a constant audit probability π. A constant commission rate requires a proportional tax schedule. Proposition 2/(i) allows a progressive tax schedule. then a constant commission rate can also accommodate a progressive tax schedule if the audit probability raises with rising income.] Proposition 2/(ii) states that I‟s expected payment over his reservation utility must come entirely from commission payments.. the commission rate must not exceed (1-π). the average tax rate must not be less than the probability of audit.e. This is often the case with the tax schemes of many countries.. . We have also (1-π)≥λ(y).

i. if . The further requirement of corruption-proofness requires that z(y)=y. A smaller audit probability requires higher fines.Proposition 2/(iii) states that it is only the collective fine f(x. α=0.e. i. corruption-proofness follows immediately..y) that matters for evasion-proofness and revenue maximization.e. Eliminating extortion requires that the gain to I from over-reporting is outweighed by the penalty which I incurs if the over-report is discovered. Are tax schedules satisfying Proposition 2 also corruption-proof? Obviously not because the possibility of extortion means that the threat of over-reporting may enable I to extract a bribe merely to report the truth. If appeals are costless. with the factor of proportionality being greater the less the audit probability is. The more realistic case is α>0. Surprisingly. the achievement of these objectives does not require to set penalties at their maximum feasible levels.. It is enough that they be proportional to the extent of understatement.

that is. and progressive for the higher income strata. the price to preclude extortion by paying no commission to tax inspectors means that one has to dispense with progressive taxes. proportional for the lower income strata. These conditions are trivially satisfied by removing the incentive to over-report. paying no commission. This is a tax scheme requiring a proportional tax schedule (a true flat tax) with a fixed wage for inspectors and with the tax rate equal to the probability of random audit. Progression invites evasion and corruption. However.Proposition 3: A tax scheme satisfying all conditions of Proposition 2 is evasionproof. corruption-proof. this requires a two-tier tax schedule. . Can we allow for progression? In principle. This is stated in the next proposition. and revenue maximizing if it satisfies also condition (10).

the fine in (ii) decreases with the extent of over-report (x>y).Interestingly enough. The fine condition can be re-written as The first term on the left is the expected explicit penalty. The second comes from Proposition 2/(i): .

The proportional part in Proposition 5 is necessary to prevent extortion: The poor have little to evade. Paying inspectors a commission at low income reports does little to combat evasion but creates the possibility of extortion. . Hence. This condition may hold even if the fine f(z. it becomes a real implicit penalty. the condition in Proposition 5/(ii) requires that either punishment is so great that the inspector will never over-report or/and the cost of appealing is so low that P will choose to appeal. In case of over-reporting [x=z>y]. Thus.Consider This means that the decrease (x<y) [increase (x>y)] in the collective payment can be considered an implicit “penalty”.y) decreases with over-reporting because the implicit component of the punishment increases with z and compensates for the reduction of the explicit penalty. no commission should be paid on low income reports.

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