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The distinct role of group-central and group-peripheral norms in taxpaying behaviour

By J. S. Ashby, S. A. Haslam and Paul Webley


In recent years, a social identity approach has been used to help understand why people do or do not pay tax [see Taylor, 2003; Wenzel, M., 2002. The impact of outcome orientation and justice concerns on tax compliance: the role of taxpayers' identity. Journal of Applied Psychology 87, 629-645; Wenzel, M., 2004. An analysis of norm processes in tax compliance. Journal of Economic Psychology 25, 213-228; Wenzel, M., 2005. Misperception of social norms about tax compliance: from theory to intervention. Journal of Economic Psychology 26, 862-883; Wenzel, M., 2007. The multiplicity of taxpayer identities and their implications for tax ethics. Law & Policy 29, 31-50]. This research, which has focused almost exclusively on national identity, indicates that the more people identify with a group, the more likely they are to adhere to its tax norms and values. However, conformity to group norms may be more nuanced than this, and depend on (a) the meaning or content of the identity in question [e.g., Turner, J.C., 1999. Some current themes in research on social identity and self-categorization theories. In: Ellemers, N., Spears, R., Doojse, B. (Eds.), Social Identity: Context, Commitment, Content. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 6-34] and (b) whether the norms and values are central or peripheral to the content of that identity. In line with this idea, two studies explored whether the concept and act of taxpaying are more central to what it means to be a member of one's nation than of one's occupational group. Both studies confirm this expectation. Importantly, the findings also suggest that although occupational groups have different norms and values in relation to pre-tax behaviours (e.g., how to deal with extra income), these too can be peripheral to what it means to a group member. If norms are peripheral to identity content, conformity to such norms may be independent of group identification

Topics: 5800
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.socec.2008.11.001
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Provided by: SOAS Research Online
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