Where Do My Tax Dollars Go? Tax Morale Effects of Perceived Government Spending

Paper by Matias Giaccobasso, Brad C. Nathan, Ricardo Perez-Truglia & Alejandro Zentner: “Do perceptions about how the government spends tax dollars affect the willingness to pay taxes? We designed a field experiment to test this hypothesis in a natural, high-stakes context and via revealed preferences. We measure perceptions about the share of property tax revenues that fund public schools and the share of property taxes that are redistributed to disadvantaged districts. We find that even though information on where tax dollars go is publicly available and easily accessible, taxpayers still have significant misperceptions. We use an information-provision experiment to induce exogenous shocks to these perceptions. Using administrative data on tax appeals, we measure the causal effect of perceived government spending on the willingness to pay taxes. We find that some perceptions about government spending have a significant effect on the probability of filing a tax appeal and in a manner that is consistent with the classical theory of benefit-based taxation. We discuss implications for researchers and policy makers…(More)”.