Tax compliance is not fundamentally influenced by incidental emotions: An experiment

Janina Enachescu, Ziga Puklavec, Jerome Olsen, Erico Kirchler

The present study investigates the impact of incidental emotions on tax compliance behavior in an experimental setting. Different theories are divided about how experiencing incidental emotions should influence tax decisions and the few existing studies yield inconsistent results. Our aim was to investigate differences between three specific emotions, namely anger, fear, and happiness. This allowed a comparison in compliance behavior as a function of differences in emotional valence as well as in specific emotional qualities. For this purpose, a sample of 264 individuals participated in a tax experiment. After a baseline treatment, one of the three emotions was induced using video-clips with background music. Moreover, emotional arousal was assessed by measuring electrodermal activity. Manipulation check items as well as elevated arousal levels after the emotion induction provided support for a successful emotion induction. Nevertheless, we did not observe any tax compliance differences between the anger, fear, and happiness conditions. Our results speak against a fundamental role of incidental emotions for tax compliance decisions.

Department of Occupational, Economic and Social Psychology
External organisation(s)
Tilburg University, Max-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung von Gemeinschaftsgütern, IHS - Institut für Höhere Studien und wissenschaftliche Forschung
Economics of Governance
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501029 Economic psychology
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