No taxation with information on representation : a survey experiment on tax morale in China
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Extant studies on tax morale emphasize the influence of reciprocal motivations on tax compliance behavior. This strand of literature views tax payments as a tax contract between governments and citizens, arguing that individuals’ willingness to pay taxes depends on their perceptions of government’s representation. This paper examines whether a reciprocal information can affect individuals’ tax morale in an authoritarian regime featured by low-information environments with an original survey experiment of 119 respondents in China. I primed a subgroup of respondents with information about congressional representation unfolding at local levels, and compared their tax morale to the untreated group. The results show that this information affects people’s willingness to pay taxes in an unexpected direction. I find evidence that those who received the representation information tended to have lower tax morale than those who did not receive the information. This is because this information undermined congress delegates’ representation perceived by the treated units, which in turn diminished their willingness to pay taxes. Following the baseline result, three heterogeneous effects were tested. I find that the negative effect of information on tax morale is larger among MBA group. I also find some evidence that the treatment effect is stronger among low self-monitors, who incline to express their real attitudes toward sensitive questions such as tax compliance. Yet, I do not find evidence that political knowledge plays a role in the heterogeneous effect. Last, I offer some suggestive evidence, both quantitative and qualitative, of why the reciprocal information lowered, not enhanced, people’s perceptions of local congress delegates’ representation.