This dissertation consists of two studies investigating taxpayer behaviors. Both studies investigate taxpayer behaviors following some type of tax policy change. With the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, many individuals anticipated a tax benefit on their subsequent tax return. But when individuals mistakenly assumed that a lower refund meant they did not benefit from the tax policy change, some taxpayers became outspoken about their lack of support for and perceived unfairness of the law. Study one utilizes a 2 x 2 between-subjects experiment to examine the effects of tax benefit salience and informational justice on taxpayers' perceptions of the fairness of a law change and their subsequent compliance intentions. I find that tax benefit salience and informational justice both have a positive direct effect on taxpayers' perceptions of the fairness of the law change. Importantly, the effect of salience is stronger when informational justice is low compared to when informational justice is high. Finally, the indirect effect of salience on compliance intentions through perceived fairness is stronger for taxpayers who receive an explanation low in informational justice compared to those who received an explanation high in informational justice, suggesting a potential substitution effect for informational justice and salience. That is, a tax benefit should be either salient or accompanied by an explanation high in informational justice, but not necessarily both, to avoid a drop in fairness perceptions. Study two utilizes a 2 x 2 between-subjects experiment to investigate the effects of filing method and filing method autonomy on taxpayer behavior. Because individuals in the U.S. are accustomed to freedom of choice, including freedom associated with tax filing, taking that freedom away by requiring individuals to use a pre-filled system could have negative consequences. According to the Tax Policy Center, at least 36 countries around the world have some sort of pre-filled filing system available to taxpayers since such systems are cost-effective and easy to use. In January 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) modified its agreement with Free File, Inc., the company that represents the providers of free e-file software for those who qualify, revoking its promise not to compete with these software companies. This opens the door for a U.S. pre-filled filing system, but it is unclear whether taxpayers' use of the system would be voluntary or mandatory. Prior research has shown that a pre-filled system can decrease compliance in the U.S. I replicate this finding in an experimental setting and demonstrate that, compared to those without filing method autonomy, taxpayers who are given the choice to use the pre-filled system report significantly less aggressively. This implies that filing method autonomy may be key to the success of an IRS-sponsored pre-filled filing system in the U.S.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Business Administration
Business Administration; Accounting
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Schwebke, Jason, "Two Studies Examining The Effects of Tax Salience, Informational Justice, and Autonomy on Taxpayer Behaviors" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 759.