The backfiring effect of auditing on tax compliance

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Using country-level data from 2003–2014, we examine the association between auditing level (measured as number of verification actions taken by tax authorities per 100 taxpayers in each country) and tax compliance (measured as business executives’ perception of tax evasion). Our hypothesis is that compliance increases until a certain auditing level is reached, and decreases beyond that level (i.e., an elevated auditing level backfires). In line with our expectation, the results of a series of tests indicate that there is a U-shaped association between auditing and tax evasion. We discuss how a potential backfiring effect may depend on the extent to which compliance is voluntary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-294
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Issue numberOctober
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Auditing
  • Tax compliance
  • Tax enforcement


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