The Huffington Post:
Nobody likes the taxman. Even those who in principle believe in spreading the wealth — even they get a twinge of fear at the mention of the IRS, April 15th and — worst of all — the dreaded audit. Don’t deny it.
That’s because the IRS has been pretty heavy-handed over the years, relying on the threat of audits and liens and seizures and harsh fines to scare citizens into compliance. These punitive tactics are based on classical economic theory, which says that we are all essentially self-interested, motivated only by the drive to maximize our own financial interests. Without such deterrents, according to this reasoning, there would be rampant cheating.
The problem, according to a team of University of Vienna psychological scientists, is that classic economic theory fails to factor in important psychological factors. Erich Kirchler and his colleagues wanted to explore the importance of trust and honesty in tax behavior, to see if there might be alternatives to strict control and punishment for regulating citizen behavior. They have been running studies to test whether an intrinsic motivation for cooperation might be a crucial, overlooked dynamic in regulatory strategy.
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