Acta Politica

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 104–123 | Cite as

What explains the North–South divide in Italian tax compliance? An experimental analysis

  • John D’AttomaEmail author
Original Article


I undertake a comparative study assessing the North–South divide in Italian tax compliance, employing the largest behavioral tax compliance experiment to date. Contrary to a large body of literature, I argue that willingness to pay taxes is constructed within a specific institutional environment and reflects the country’s quality of institutions. To test this hypothesis, I use controlled tax compliance experiments from four laboratories in Capua, Rome, Bologna, and Milan. By employing the experimental method, I am able to hold institutions constant allowing me to isolate cultural variation. Contrary to cultural explanations for tax compliance, when controlling the institutional environment, there is no difference in tax compliance. Furthermore, using social value orientation to compare prosociality, I also find no differences between the two regions. I therefore conclude that individuals’ relationship to their states shapes these behavioral differences in tax compliance.


Tax morale Taxation Tax compliance Experimental research Comparative politics 



I would like to thank Sven Steinmo, Giulia Andrighetto, Sanne Noyon, Stefania Ottone, Ferruccio Ponzano, Nan Zhang, Arturo Palomba, Patrizia Sbriglia, and the lab personnel at Bologna Laboratory for Experiments in Social Sciences, Centro d’Economia Sperimentale A Roma Est, Experimental Economics Lab of the University of Milano Bicocca in Italy, and the Experimental Laboratory at Seconda Università degli Studi di Napoli in Capua. Funds for this research were provided by the European Research Council (Grant Agreement No. 295675 ).


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tax Administration Research Centre (TARC)University of Exeter Business SchoolExeterUK

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