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Taxation is an indispensable social institution. It is key for raising the funds required for collective projects; only when people are willing to pay their taxes can public goods such as roads, hospitals, or schools be provided. For this reason, it is important to understand why people are willing or not willing to comply with tax laws. This intrinsic motivation to pay taxes is called tax morale.
Interestingly, there are differences between countries in people’s tax morale and in their behavior (tax compliance) as well as differing attitudes toward different types of taxes. Tax researchers and tax administrations have paid increasing attention to factors that influence both tax morale and tax behavior in recent years, identifying various economic and socio-psychological determinants of tax compliance, such as audit probability, fine levels, social norms, or fairness considerations. Importantly, empirical studies of tax compliance do not reveal consistent effects of such factors, neither of economic factors nor of social-psychological factors.
The goal of this project is to better understand these puzzling findings, using an overarching approach to determine which factors influence tax behavior and how. Social psychology, evolutionary psychology, and anthropology offer rich theories relevant to explaining tax behavior. Social exchange theory describes the cognitive processes that people use to navigate exchange relationships. Relational models theory describes different models of social relations and the associated forms of fairness and relevant incentives. It is promising to apply these theories to the views that people have about taxation and on their relationships with tax authorities and institutions. The project aims to (1) formulate a general theory of tax compliance in terms of relational models and underlying cognitive mechanisms of social exchange, (2) test multiple hypotheses derived from this theory, and (3) propose recommendations for designing communication or choice architecture of tax administrations.
The project will use existing and original (new) survey data as well as experimental data to study individual differences in tax compliance (intentions) and tax morale, beliefs and attitudes about taxation, and cost-benefit perceptions. The project will also use secondary (archival) data and comparative surveys to study how institutions involved in tax policies and administration differ in terms of communication and how this relates to differences in tax morale and differences in compliance for various types of taxes.
The position is for four years and is hosted by the Department of Social Psychology of Tilburg University (https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/about/schools/socialsciences/organization/departments/social-psychology). The PhD candidate is supervised by a team consisting of dr. Florian van Leeuwen (co-promotor, with expertise in evolutionary psychology), dr. Christoph Kogler (co-promotor, with expertise in tax compliance), and dr. Seger Breugelmans (promotor).
The PhD candidate will use both existing (secondary) data and collect new (experimental and/or survey) data. Findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed scientific publications, presentations at (inter)national conferences, and workshops.
We are looking for a highly motivated and curious PhD candidate. Candidates ideally have a relevant academic background in psychology (or other relevant discipline) and be in the possession of a master’s or research master’s degree (or expect to obtain such a degree in the near future). Experience with economic psychology, behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, or experimental social psychology is a plus. We are looking for candidates who have:
Fixed-term contract: 4 years.
This is a fully funded, four-year PhD position. The PhD candidate is employed by Tilburg University, which is among the top of the Dutch employers and has an excellent policy concerning terms of employment. The appointments are intended to lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. The PhD appointment begins with a period of 12 months. Continuation of the appointment with another 36 months will be based on performance evaluation.
The gross salary for the PhD position amounts to € 2.770,- per month in the first year, rising to € 3.639,- per month in the fourth year, based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week).
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