What Shapes Attitudes Toward Paying Taxes? Evidence from Multicultural European Countries


  • *Direct correspondence to Benno Torgler, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisband, QLD 4001, Australia 〈benno.torgler@qut.edu.au〉. Benno Torgler will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. For advice and suggestions, thanks are due Doris Aebi, Julia Angelica, Alejandro Esteller-Moré, René L. Frey, Christian Valenduc, the editor Robert L. Lineberry, and three anonymous referees. A previous version of this article was presented at a seminar at the University of Basel, which was co-sponsored by the University of Zurich. Thanks to the participants for helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank Lars P. Feld and Bruno S. Frey for providing us with data on the audit probability and fine rate in Switzerland, and Alejandro Esteller-Moré and Christian Valenduc for providing data on the marginal tax rates in Spain and Belgium. We also gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Max Geldner-Stiftung, the Janggen-Pöhn-Stifung, the FAG (Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft), and the University of Basel (Fonds zur Förderung des Akademischen Nachwuchs).


Objectives. Considerable evidence suggests that enforcement efforts cannot fully explain the high degree of tax compliance. To resolve this puzzle of tax compliance, several researchers have argued that citizens' attitudes toward paying taxes, defined as tax morale, helps to explain the high degree of tax compliance. However, most studies have treated tax morale as a black box, without discussing which factors shape it. Additionally, the tax compliance literature provides little empirical research that investigates attitudes toward paying taxes in Europe.

Methods. Thus, this article is unique in its examination of citizen tax morale within three multicultural European countries, Switzerland, Belgium, and Spain, a choice that allows far more detailed examination of the impact of culture and institutions using data sets from the World Values Survey and the European Values Survey.

Results. The results indicate the tendency that cultural and regional differences affect tax morale.

Conclusion. The findings suggest that higher legitimacy for political institutions leads to higher tax morale.