1. EU-Turkey relations

1. EU-Turkey relations

ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND TAX COMPLIANCE GAMES: EVIDENCE REGARDING ENTERPRISE BEHAVIOURAL DYNAMICS IN GREECE V. Vlachos, A. Bitzenis, P. Kontakos University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece Monday, July 6, 10:30-12:45, Session [2] Room: Santa Eulalia II, Grande Real Santa Eullia Resort 27th B&ESI Conference 2015 Albufeira / Algarve, Portugal, July 6-9, 2015 Note: The current paper is presented under the auspices of the THALES Research Programme. THALES Programme has been cofinanced by the European Union (European Social Fund - ESF) and Greek national funds through the Operational Program Education and Lifelong Learning of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF). 2 Foreword to our Project Our aim is to research and measure all various aspects of

shadow economy in Greece, including corruption, tax evasion, tax avoidance, social contribution avoidance, undeclared and illegal work, self-consumption, tax morale level, tax compliance level, illegal and criminal acts (black or underground economy, moneylaundering, human and drug trafficking, briberies). It covers all economic agents in Greece, such as citizens and corporations (e.g. public servants and private individuals, companies and all professional categories, etc.) The research is also performed at sector levels, e.g. to identify the extent of tax evasion and corruption in the trading of oil in Greece. 3 Foreword to our Project (cont.) It does not aim to the precise percentage regarding the measurement of Greek shadow economy but aims to the

qualitative analysis of questionnaire results and the comprehension of the problem. The implementation of our interviews, scientific games and economic experiments (tax compliance games) involves at least 2,000 individuals and business owners (in majority small businesses). The project aspires to achieve numerous objectives, among which the development of a relevant theoretical background, and perform cross-country comparisons at regional level, but also with country groups with advanced taxation systems. 4 Foreword to our Project (cont.) In Greece, during the period 2008-2014, both unemployment increased from 8% to 27% and the GDP per capita decreased

almost 25%. THALES results show that in contrast to the reduction of the shadow economy as a percentage of GDP from 28% before the crisis at 24% in 2013, we estimate that at the end of our full research analysis, probably, this percentage will have exceeded 30% in 2014/2015. 5 Agenda 1. Aims of the paper 2. Introduction 3. Our research aim and methodology 4. Preliminary results from our questionnaire survey 5. Conclusion 6 1. Aims of the paper

Discuss the alternative methods adopted by researches based on tax compliance games. Introduce a multifaceted approach and research methodology to tax compliance. Present the preliminary results of our questionnaire survey aiming to identify the tax behavioural dynamics of Greek SMEs. Our final aim is to develop a policy mixture that would significantly enhance tax morale and tax compliance and thus, affect positively tax revenues and at the same time improve the country's attractiveness for inward FDI. 7 2. Introduction

The growing body of literature on tax compliance indicates that economic, social & psychological variables have to be jointly considered. The researchers performing tax compliance games adopt a behavioral approach to game theory and use data from group experiments. The methods of tax compliance games indicate that the studies based on the particular method cannot explore all the determinants of tax compliance concurrently (Vlachos et al., forthcoming). They indicate that: income levels are positively related to tax compliance, tax rate levels have an inverse relationship with tax compliance, and monetary rewards and higher penalties do not reinforce compliance. 8 2. Introduction (cont.)

Moreover, the fact that two papers (Andrei et al., 2014; Hashimzade, et al., 2014) indicate through their simulations that networks play a major role in tax compliance, at the same time that Bloomquist (2010) finds no neighborhood effects. This indicates that findings are not only case sensitive to the population from which data are taken but also on the theoretical assumptions. Overall, attention has to be brought to the group of individuals on which the experiment takes place. Interestingly enough, all studies discussed in the previous section except from Bloomquist (2010), are based on experimental data from student groups. 9 3. Our Research Aim & Methodology

The implementation of our scientific games / economic experiments (tax compliance games) will involve at least 2,000 individuals and business owners (in majority small businesses, as explained in the next section), which will be identified via random or other statistically sound sampling methodologies. At least 20 different occupational categories and income groups will participate in the execution of the experiment, in order to determine their behavioral aspects related to tax compliance and attitude arising from the impact of the economic crisis, high unemployment, undeclared work, informal economy, corruption, tax implications, etc. The experiment is performed within an environment where the decisions or actions of participants are based on monetary incentives (and not vouchers) in which participants are exposed to frameworks resembling real-life taxpaying situations. 10

3. Our Research Aim & Methodology (cont.) The real cash earnings / incomes cannot be observed by other participants or the experiment coordinator or other researchers (no impacts from the breach of rules will apply). Various levels of tax rates will be involved during the game in order to identify the respective levels of tax evasion incentives. Currently, the phase of the Project related to the implementation of a pilot survey involving 500 participants has been concluded and the preliminary evidence is discussed in the current paper. The methodology we have followed was based on the aforementioned performed literature review and is described in the next paragraphs.

11 3. Our Research Aim & Methodology (cont.) a. Experiments They are used widely in the last 30-y, also by the economic science. Although studies have conducted laboratory experiments to estimate the extent of tax compliance & the degree of responsiveness in key economic variables, only few of them have advanced to the examination of other non-economic factors. The aim of this study is exactly to identify the social, psychological, political & cultural factors that influence the decision of individuals to comply with their tax obligations and the influencing of each factor in their final choices.

Main drawback of this method is that the high administrative cost does not leave room for wide participation, which leads us to select and check a few parameters, which are considered more 12 important in the final selection of the taxpayer. 3. Our Research Aim & Methodology (cont.) b. Objectives of the experiment For the successful performance of the experiment should be, firstly, identified the targets, the criteria for selecting the individuals, the way of presentation and the rules of the game. Equally important parameter is the timing and whether it is static or dynamic. The main objective is to see whether the concepts of reward, ethical barriers and reciprocity positively influence the tax behavior of individuals.

Our experiment is a synthesis of previous experiments adapted to the Greek reality, mainly from laboratory experiments of Alm et al. (1992), Torgler (2003) and Bosco and Mittone (1997). The common denominator of all these studies is their emphasis on the social & psychological factors affecting tax compliance & the introduction of variables involving ethical dilemmas of the taxpayer 13 and that they render special role in the value of reciprocity. 3. Our Research Aim & Methodology (cont.) c. Rules and Procedure of the Game We have first attempted that the game variables approximate as much as possible the values that taxpayers are facing in reality.

In particular, the tax rate should neither be very high so that participants do not feel possessed by injustice in taxation of income, nor too low, thus resulting in the lack of any incentive for tax evasion. This study proposes a tax rate equal to 30%. Indicatively are mentioned the variables that can be changed if deemed that they do not fully reflect the Greek reality, such as: the tax rate (t = 0.30), the probability of a tax audit (p = 0.10) and the tax fine or penalty (equal to two times the undeclared income). it is suggested the involvement of students in the experiment, despite some potential bias in the sample (due to young age 14 inexperience or higher than average education levels). 3. Our Research Aim & Methodology (cont.)

The group of students might be a good sample because the teachers will check their tax behavior, exerting a form of authority over students - even limited, which can be compared with the power of the tax authorities. Also some groups will be exposed in ethical dilemmas in order to determine whether the moral constraints affecting their tax consciousness. Another challenge is whether all the rules of the game will be clearly explained or only the most important. Taxpayers are known as not being fully aware of the tax laws, especially when these are highly complex. Our view is that a simple and clear tax legislative framework can positively affect the tax consciousness of people.

15 3. Our Research Aim & Methodology (cont.) Because our aim is to understand whether and how the person is affected by moral constraints in the final decision to evade taxes or to tax comply, in order to arrive at clear conclusions we have preferred to conduct the game with the introduction of a small number of clear rules. Further, the influence of the complexity of the legislation in the tax moral citizens will be examined through the questionnaire survey. Those taking part in the experiment are randomly divided in five groups. At the start of the game players receive an amount of money as compensation for their participation in the game (e.g. 60 Euro), out of which they will be requested to reimburse 30% in the form of a tax (i.e. 18 Euro).

16 3. Our Research Aim & Methodology (cont.) Players choose the amount of tax that will pay, knowing that their obligation is to pay 30% (or 18 Euro). The payment is done in such a way as to ensure their anonymity (except the players in Group E). Checks are carried out by lottery in the presence of all players. The results of the tests are published unless the checks are carried out in group E. Clear instructions are provided to the players regarding the tax payment, the tax audits, the payment of fine or penalty in the case of a tax audit, and finally the payment of the remaining balance in the form of remuneration for their participation in the research

project. Players are notified in writing shortly before carrying out the game for the conduct and the rules. 17 4. Preliminary Results from our Questionnaire Survey The preliminary evidence presented is based on our survey conducted during July 1st to Dec. 31st, 2014, with the participation of micro and small business owners (i.e. owners of SMEs). The Greek SME sector differs considerably in its structure from the EU as a whole. The SME sector is more important in Greece (accounting for 99.9% in the total number of companies) than in the average EU country, and Greek SMEs tend to be smaller than their EU peers.

Within the SME sector micro enterprises are more heavily represented and in 2011 accounted for 96.6% of enterprises, 56.6% of the jobs and 33.9% of the value-added, against an EU average of 92.2%, 29.7% and 21.2% respectively (EC, 2012). 18 4. Preliminary Results from our Questionnaire Survey (cont.) Based on the available data up until the end of 2012, the Greek SME sector is estimated to have been hit particularly hard by the crisis in terms of the number of enterprises, which is not only inferior to 2008, the last year before the crisis, but also to the year of 2005. In the light of recent trends after 2012, the respective figures are expected to have further deteriorated significantly.

Although the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranks Greece among the main improvers in 2013, the deterioration of disposable income and living standards, and the perception that the financial scandals and corruption by highly ranked Government officials has led to the debt crisis, and the rigid fiscal measures undertaken in turn, all these have made the authors of this paper, based on the first results of our research, to disagree with the conclusions of the CPI. 19 4. Preliminary Results from our Questionnaire Survey (cont.) Instead we can argue that the level of tax morale in Greece during the crisis has worsened due to the lower living standards and the severe Greek sovereign debt crisis, and Greek citizens try to replace the loss of income by tax avoidance transactions, contribution evasion by employers and employees for Social Insurance and other-Auxiliary Funds for Employees, and concealment of income.

In view of the political determinants of tax compliance behavior of SME in Greece it is found in accordance with other researchers (Batrancea et al., 2012) to have been affected by the complexity of tax law, the complexity of tax system, and the inefficiencies of fiscal policy. 20 4. Preliminary Results from our Questionnaire Survey (cont.) In contrast with others researchers (Beck et al., 1991; Snow and Warren, 2005), who support that the uncertainty of tax law due to multiple changes generates punishment aversion, we observe that Greek micro businesses have become less risk averse and more motivated toward game-playing to tax avoidance and tax evasion. Further, an increasing number of taxpayers hire tax professionals

or accountants to give expert advice on the correct filling of their tax returns, whereas other taxpayers increasingly involved on devising ways to tax evade in order to exploit the latest loopholes in the tax system. 21 4. Preliminary Results from our Questionnaire Survey (cont.) The social-psychological determinants of tax compliance of the small business owners that participated in the interviews, underlined that the majority of taxpayers mention that fairness significantly supports a high level of compliance with the tax rate levels perceived to be fair lying lower than those indicated by other studies (Lvy-Garboua et al., 2006; Porschke & Witte, 2002). In accordance with Allingham and Sandmo (1972) and Srinivasan (1973) models of tax evasion, the increased probability of being audited by the tax authorities has increased overall the attitude

of Greek small businesses to pay the tax according to their real income. 22 4. Preliminary Results from our Questionnaire Survey (cont.) The results were differentiated according to the size of the business, with the latter case of declaring less income being more frequent when the real incomes were lower, thus indicating a negative relationship between income and compliance in accordance with others (Baldry, 1987; Anderhub et al., 2001). Moreover, friendly treatment of taxpayers by the tax office in auditing processes increases tax compliance, as also supported by Feld and Frey (2007).

In line with Alm et al. (1992) it is found that that compliance level lessens when the tax rate is boosted from 10%, 30% to 50%. The level of compliance is generally higher under a progressive than under a proportionate tax regime (in accordance with Heinemann and Kocher, 2010). 23 4. Preliminary Results from our Questionnaire Survey (cont.) As such, the applicability of the classical economic model of tax evasion and the significance of the four different determinants which shape taxpayers behavior (audit probability, fines, tax rates, and income) seems to be confirmed in the Greek SME case. A tax rate at a level approximate to 10%, as in the neighboring countries of Greece (i.e. Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Cyprus which all have applied a 10% tax rate), would enhance tax morale and tax compliance, decrease propensity to tax evade, and finally would positively affect tax revenues.

The level of Value Added Tax (VAT) seems also to act as a motivation to the firms that were involved in our questionnaire survey for engineering VAT avoidance schemes. VAT fraud in Greece through schemes in the form of carousel has been very frequent in practice, as also in other European countries (e.g. Belgium). 24 4. Preliminary Results from our Questionnaire Survey (cont.) Regarding the impact of corruption and specifically bribing at a sector level, we find that bribing in procurement contracts ranges between to 2% to 22%, depending on the sector that was tested. A level of 2% to 2.5% is estimated or foreseen for general

contracts of every kind of goods and services, whereas an average of 3% to 4% was estimated for companies involved in armament contracts and weapons supplies. The highest rate with an average of 19% to 22% can be expected when contracts for medical and pharmaceutical supplies for public hospitals and other institutions are involved. Further, it is estimated that a significant illegal activity takes place in fuel trading, where the surveillance mechanism of this activity on the part of state authorities remains inadequate and important 25 measures remain to be undertaken (Bitzenis and Kontakos, 2014). 5. Conclusion Preliminary evidence is presented from the pilot questionnaire survey to identify tax compliance behavioral patterns in the case

of Greek SMEs which was performed by the authors. Respectively, the political, social psychological and economic determinants of their tax compliance were analyzed, by following a multifaceted approach. We observe that particularly Greek micro and small businesses have become less risk averse and more motivated toward game-playing to tax avoidance and tax evasion, which can be explained as an attempt to survive in the current crisis conditions. Evidence exists that the level of shadow economy in Greece has increased in the period of economic crisis, and particularly during 2010-2013, in contrast with the indications of other relevant research and international published indicators. 26

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