April 19, 2016 – Carlos Scartascini (IADB): Tax compliance in Latin America: When do people respond?

We continue the Latin American Political Economy –LAPE- Seminar Series on April 19, 2016 with a talk by Dr. Carlos Scartascini (Inter-American Development Bank) entitled:

Tax compliance in Latin America: When do people respond?

This event is co-organized with the UCLU Latin American Policy Society



The economic profession has traditionally concentrated on designing the most efficient and effective public policies. Little attention has been given, however, to the way those policies are communicated, which may affect their effectiveness. For example, it has been traditionally assumed that once introduced into law, fines and penalties would reduce tax evasion. But could the way the government announces to delinquent taxpayers the cost of evading have a differential effect on compliance?

The literature has also been relatively silent about the effectiveness of rewards to affect behaviors. Do citizens react to positive inducements? Are the effects long lasting? Are prizes an appropriate incentive for rewarding good behavior?

Making use of two randomized experiments on tax compliance in Latin America, we try to answer those questions. The evidence indicates that the communication methods matter (it is not the same sending a letter, calling, or visiting a taxpayer) and that rewarding taxpayers for good behavior with a durable and visible public good has large positive effects on compliance.

These results highlight that the mechanism through which policies are informed and publicized should not be neglected from the policy debate, and that rewards may be an important policy tool for affecting behavior.

Carlos Scartascini is Principal Economist at the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank. His areas of expertise include Political Economy and Public Finance. His current research focuses on uncovering the determinants of tax compliance in Latin America (through the use of natural and field experiments), explaining the political economy of tax reforms, and understanding and measuring the process of government capacity accumulation. He has published seven books and more than 30 articles in edited volumes and specialized journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, Economía, the Journal of Industrial Economics, the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, the Journal of Banking and Finance, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, and the Journal of Theoretical Politics. He is Associate Editor of the academic journal Economía, and co-editor of Vox-LACEA. A native of Argentina, Dr. Scartascini holds a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Economics from George Mason University.