Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 339–350 | Cite as

Rationality Versus Emotions: The Case of Tax Ethics and Compliance

  • Boris Maciejovsky
  • Herbert Schwarzenberger
  • Erich Kirchler


Businesses that rely heavily on cash transactions have been found to be particularly susceptible to low tax ethics. Recent research indicates that cash is a highly powerful and tempting reward, which elicits a strong emotional response. In this article, we investigate how emotions affect tax ethics in a series of experimental studies. Specifically, we show that affective priming and the ease with which tax information is retrieved moderate tax ethics. We also show that the relative effectiveness of deterrence, such as audit probabilities and tax fines, is moderated by affect. These results point toward a complex picture of tax ethics, requiring a multifaceted policy approach that emphasizes not only enforcement, but also cognitive and affective aspects of human behavior.


Affect Cognition Emotions Tax compliance Tax ethics Tax evasion Rationality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boris Maciejovsky
    • 1
  • Herbert Schwarzenberger
    • 2
  • Erich Kirchler
    • 2
  1. 1.Imperial College Business School, Imperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology, University of ViennaViennaAustria

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