IRS - Understanding Taxpayer Compliance Behavior


Understanding Taxpayer Compliance Behavior

While the tax gap reflects the extent of taxpayer noncompliance, it is also important to understand why taxpayers are compliant or noncompliant. This section contains papers that seek to provide insights into taxpayer behavior through:

  • Econometric analyses
  • Lab experiments
  • Field or natural experiments
  • Tax compliance burden

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Econometric Analysis

The papers in this section employ statistical regression techniques to explain the variation in observed compliance behavior, controlling statistically for other drivers of that behavior.

Criminal Investigation Enforcement Activities and Taxpayer NoncompliancePDF

Author: Jeffrey Dubin, California Institute of Technology

Publication date: June 2004

Written for: 2004 IRS Research Conference

Lab Experiments

Academic researchers have simulated taxpaying rules and incentives in a lab environment, which provides some insights into why taxpayers comply or don't comply with their tax obligations.

Audit Information Dissemination, Taxpayer Communication, and Compliance: An Experimental ApproachPDF

Authors: James Alm, Georgia State University; Betty Jackson, University of Colorado at Boulder; Michael McKee, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Publication date: June 2004 

Written for: 2004 IRS Research Conference

Field or Natural Experiments

Field experiments are conducted with real taxpayers in their actual taxpaying environment, and are designed to allow comparisons between some who are intentionally exposed to a change in that environment and others who are not, providing an indication of the value of the change. Natural experiments are not designed beforehand, but are rather analyses that seek to estimate the impact of an actual change that took place by comparing data from before versus after periods, controlling for other likely explanations of the observed behavior.

Economic and Behavioral Determinants of Tax Compliance: Evidence from the 1997 Arkansas Tax Penalty Amnesty ProgramPDF

Authors: Christina M. Ritsema, Hope College; Deborah W. Thomas and Gary D. Ferrier, University of Arkansas

Publication date: June 2003

Written for: 2003 IRS Research Conference

Taxpayer Burden Research

The papers in this section discuss the drivers of taxpayer burden, contributions to burden survey research, and behavioral insights resulting from taxpayer burden research.

FY21 OMB 1545-0123 RebaselinePDF


  • RAAS: Brenda Schafer, Pat Langetieg, and Lindsay Buchholz
  • W&I Tax Forms and Publications: Carrie Holland, Tuawana Pinkston, Maria Cheeks

Publication date: December 2021

Written for: OMB Improvement Strategy

Tax Compliance Burden, 2018PDF


  • RAAS: John Guyton, Pat Langetieg, Pete Rose, Brenda Schafer
  • W&I Tax Forms and Publications: Carrie Holland, Tuawana Pinkston, Maria Cheeks

Publication date: July 2018

Written for: OMB Improvement Strategy