SEMINAR: Culture, Compliance, and Confidentiality: A Study of Taxpayer Behavior in the United States and Italy

25 February 2016
Versione stampabile

2 PM - room 3E, Department of Economics and Management

Speaker: Michele Bernasconi - University Ca' Foscari, Venice


This paper analyzes the impact of confidentiality of taxpayer information on the level of
compliance in two countries with very different levels of citizen trust in government – the United
States and Italy. In both countries, the payment of the individual income tax relies heavily on
voluntary compliance, in which individuals are promised that information will be kept
confidential, at least until evasion is proven. Does this promise of confidentiality affect
compliance? There is very little empirical evidence of the impact of the confidentiality contract
on compliance in any one country and none across countries. Using identical laboratory
experiments conducted in the United States and Italy, we analyze the impact on tax compliance
of “Full Disclosure” (e.g., release of photos of tax evaders to all subjects, along with information
on the extent of their non-compliance) and of “Full Confidentiality” (e.g., no public
dissemination of photos or non-compliance). We find that compliance is greater both in the U.S.
and in Italy when there is public disclosure of information about individuals found to be tax
JEL Classifications: H2, H3.
Keywords: Tax compliance, experimental economics, confidentiality, social norm.