Explaining cross-national variations in tax morality in the European Union: an exploratory analysis

Colin C. Williams, Álvaro Martínez

Abstract


The aim of this paper is to conduct an exploratory analysis of factors that might explain the cross-national variations in the level tax morality across the European Union. In order to do this, three competing explanations for the cross-national variations in tax morality will be evaluated which variously view lower levels of tax morality to be a result of either: under-development (a modernisation explanation); high taxes, state corruption and too much state interference (a neo-liberal explanation), or too little state redistribution and intervention to protect citizens (a structuralist explanation). Evaluating the cross-national variations in tax morality reported in a 2007 Eurobarometer survey using multilevel econometric techniques, the finding is that the tax morality of a baseline European citizen is higher in more developed and less corrupt nations and in countries with higher levels of taxation, social protection and redistribution. The outcome is a call for a synthesis of the three explanations in the form of a new neo-modernisation explanation which, contrary to neo-liberal discourse, argues that developed nations with higher levels of taxation, greater levels of social protection and higher levels of redistribution have higher levels of tax morality. The tentative policy implications are then discussed.

Keywords


informal economy; tax morality; taxation; neo-liberalism; social Europe

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