Cooperative Tax Compliance From Deterrence to Deference

Erich Kirchler*, Christoph Kogler, Stephan Muehlbacher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The prevailing neoclassical economic view in tax-behavior research is that trust is good, but control is better. The advice for combating tax evasion is to deter illegal behavior with rigid audits and harsh fines. But control and punishment may have unintended side effects; therefore, psychological variables (e.g., attitudes toward taxation, social norms, and perceived fairness) are receiving increased attention. The slippery-slope framework integrates both economic and psychological perspectives on tax compliance. It assumes that taxpayers abide by the law either because they fear detection and fines (enforced compliance) or because they feel an obligation to honestly contribute their share (voluntary cooperation). Whereas enforced compliance depends on the power of authorities, voluntary cooperation originates from taxpayers' trust in the authorities. A growing body of empirical research supports this framework's assumptions. The psychological approach to tax behavior has led to a change in tax authorities' practices for regulating citizen behavior. Under the labels of "enhanced relationships," "horizontal monitoring," and "fair-play initiatives," several European countries are advancing cooperative strategies with taxpayers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-92
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • trust
  • slippery-slope framework
  • tax compliance
  • power


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