Cash and the Hidden Economy: Laboratory and Artefactual Field Experimental Evidence on Fighting Tax Evasion in Small Business Transactions (2021)
Increasing the tax compliance of self-employed business owners (particularly of trade-specific service providers) remains an ongoing challenge for tax authorities. From a compliance point of view, cash transactions are particularly problematic when services are paid for on the spot, as such exchanges are difficult to audit. As a novelty we present experimental evidence testing 11 different policy strategies in a setting that allows for cash transactions. Our sample includes both students and non-students active in service industries characterised by the opportunity to engage in cash transactions. While our results offer a positive outlook for the interventions reporting a significant effect, they particularly speak to the potential of moral suasion to increase compliance, as it may be implemented at relatively low cost. However, a carrot (offering support in tax declarations) as well as a stick (increasing the threat of audits) approach may be promising for increased compliance, especially where there is an evasion opportunity in cash-for-service payments between small businesses and individual customers who may share a common benefit from tax evasion. A stick approach is particularly efficient for those inclined to use cash transactions.
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Chan Ho Fai, Dulleck Uwe, Fooken Jonas, Moy Naomi, Torgler Benno