ABSTRACT

This study focuses on whether an ethical prompt, adapted from Mazar et al. (2008), can reduce easily concealed tax evasion—i.e., tax evasion relating to cash-based income for which the IRS relies on voluntary compliance. We also consider the “Dark Triad” personality traits and other individual attitudes and characteristics that may drive or predict tax evasion intentions. We unexpectedly find that ethical prompts do not affect intent to engage in tax evasion, but our result is consistent with a newly released large-scale replication project that fails to find an effect for this much-discussed religious/ethical prompt, and the power of our test is about 80 percent. Of the variables studied, only psychopathy, commitment to the process of taxation, and fear of punishment predict intent to evade. These findings are consistent across two samples, taken both before and after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Data Availability: The data for this study are available upon request from the authors.

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