TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bankman, Nass & Slemrod: Using the 'Smart Return' to Reduce Tax Evasion

Joseph Bankman (Stanford), Clifford Nass (Stanford) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan), Using the 'Smart Return' to Reduce Tax Evasion:

Tax evasion costs government over 400 billion dollars a year. We suggest enforcement efforts can be strengthened by redesigning the tax return to take advantage of social psychology research, and industry experience with data-driven systems. To illustrate the potential of this approach, in this paper we propose three categories of changes that merit testing through pilot studies. The first involves changing the wording on existing returns to increase the psychological cost of evasion and increase the perceived expectation of detection. The second builds appeals to morality in the return itself through the use of a short phrase containing a "self-relevant" noun. The third uses on-line "conversational agents" to ask adaptive questions.

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As someone who has struggled with VITA at the street level, all I can say is good luck. Without massive simplification, government prepared tax returns would be a FUBAR of the highest order.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Mar 20, 2015 4:25:34 AM