IRS - 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.

Title Author Publication Date Written For
Criminal Investigation Enforcement Activities and Taxpayer NoncompliancePDF Jeffrey Dubin, California Institute of Technology June 2004 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.

Title Author Publication Date Written For
Audit Information Dissemination, Taxpayer Communication, and Compliance: An Experimental ApproachPDF James Alm, Georgia State University; Betty Jackson, University of Colorado at Boulder; Michael McKee, University of Tennessee at Knoxville June 2004  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.

Title Author Publication Date Written For
Economic and Behavioral Determinants of Tax Compliance: Evidence from the 1997 Arkansas Tax Penalty Amnesty ProgramPDF Christina M. Ritsema, Hope College; Deborah W. Thomas and Gary D. Ferrier, University of Arkansas June 2003 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.

Title Author Publication Date Written For
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
December 2021 OMB Improvement Strategy
Taxpayer Compliance Burden, 2023PDF
  • RAAS: John Guyton, Pat Langetieg, Pete Rose, Brenda Schafer, Sherri Edelman
  • W&I Tax Forms and Publications: Andres Garcia, Molly Stasko    
April 2023 Background on Taxpayer Burden Estimation Methodology and related IRS administrative burden.