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The Social Norms of Tax Compliance: Scale Development, Social Desirability, and Presentation Effects

Advances in Accounting Behavioral Research

ISBN: 978-1-78052-086-5, eISBN: 978-1-78052-087-2

ISSN: 1475-1488

Publication date: 24 August 2011

Abstract

In this study, we develop reliable scales for measuring taxpayers' social norms toward tax compliance and explore the effect of social desirability bias and several methodological issues that may affect behavioral tax and accounting studies. This study provides theoretical specificity to a potentially “decisive” (Alm & McKee, 1998) influence on tax compliance by drawing on Cialdini and Trost's (1998) taxonomy of social norms in developing our scale items. We describe in detail the methods that we used to develop these scales. On the basis of the responses of 218 experienced taxpayers, our results identify four separate social norm dimensions that correspond with the four social norm constructs identified by Cialdini and Trost. We also consider the effect of social desirability bias and find that these effects are mild for experienced taxpayers and are not directly related to compliance intentions. Finally, we also manipulate both the order of the items presented in the experiment and the form (online or paper-based) of the experimental instrument. While order and form effects do not interfere with the interpretation of the influence of social norms on tax compliance, we do find a significant presentation order effect driven by the paper condition, which suggests that online data collection may be preferable to uncontrolled paper and pencil administration.

Citation

Bobek, D.D., Hageman, A.M. and Kelliher, C.F. (2011), "The Social Norms of Tax Compliance: Scale Development, Social Desirability, and Presentation Effects", Arnold, V., Bobek, D., Clinton, B.D., Lillis, A., Roberts, R., Wolfe, C. and Wright, S. (Ed.) Advances in Accounting Behavioral Research (Advances in Accounting Behavioural Research, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 37-66. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1475-1488(2011)0000014005

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited