A field experiment to explore the effects of detection and penalties communications and framing among Washington State retail firms

Govind S. Iyer, Philip Reckers, Debra L. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Washington Department of Revenue facilitated a field experiment to explore opportunities to increase Use Tax and Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax compliance by retail industry firms. The experiment tested two enforcement strategies (actually put in place by the State of Washington): communication of noncompliance penalties and announcement of an enhanced detection initiative. Of special interest was whether the compliance initiatives would differentially influence firms in divergent financial positions (increasing versus decreasing revenues). Findings were consistent with the gain/loss framing concept of prospect theory: the elevated enforcement initiatives increased both actual reported Washington State Use taxes and B&O Taxes more for firms with declining revenues (loss frame) than for firms with raising revenues (gain frame). Historically the Use Tax has had a low rate of compliance while the B&O Tax has had a high rate of compliance; thus we tested two very different taxes. The results of the experiment suggest that revenue agencies with limited resources may benefit from focusing greater compliance enhancement efforts on firms with declining revenues as more tax dollars will be generated from these taxpayers. For tax researchers, this experiment demonstrates that gain/loss tax framing can occur in nature by means other than withholding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-245
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Accounting
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

Keywords

  • Detection
  • Field experiment
  • Penalties
  • State Use Tax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance

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