The role of emotions in tax compliance behavior: A mixed-methods approach

Janina Enachescu*, Jerome Olsen, Christoph Kogler, Marcel Zeelenberg, Seger M. Breugelmans, Erich Kirchler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Two studies, using both qualitative and quantitative methods, showed that tax decisions elicit different emotions, which have an impact on compliance. Study 1 used focus groups with self-employed (N = 7) and employed (N = 9) taxpayers as well as tax auditors (N = 8) to identify the emotions that are relevant in the taxation context and to single out typical situations in which these emotions are elicited. Study 2 (N = 523) quantified the prevalence and effects of specific emotions that are experienced during the process of paying taxes. We manipulated positive and negative experiences during the process of paying taxes using different scenarios in an experimental survey among a representative sample of self-employed and employed Austrian taxpayers. The results of both studies revealed that specific emotions that are relevant in the process of paying taxes can be clustered, on the one hand, in positive emotions in general and, on the other hand, in specific, negative feelings of self-blame, anger, and fear. Both self-employed and employed participants reported higher compliance intentions after having positive experiences with the tax authorities as compared to negative ones (Study 2). Importantly, these effects were mediated by anger-related, self-blame-related, and positive emotions. Hence, we conclude that emotional experiences play an important role in tax compliance decisions and that, therefore, it is crucial to take the taxpayers’ subjective perceptions into consideration when designing policies to promote compliance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102194
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Affect
  • Emotions
  • Mixed-methods
  • Tax compliance
  • Tax evasion


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