Handbook of Behavioural Change and Public Policy
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Handbook of Behavioural Change and Public Policy

Edited by Holger Straßheim and Silke Beck

Behavioural change has become a core issue of public policy. Behavioural instruments such as ‘nudging’ apply insights from behavioural economics and behavioural sciences, psychology and neurosciences across a broad range of policy areas. Behavioural insights teams and networks facilitate the global spread of behavioural public policies. Despite an ever-growing amount of literature, research has remained fragmented. This comprehensive Handbook unites interdisciplinary scholarship, with contributions critically assessing the state and direction of behavioural public policies, their normative implications and political consequences.
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Chapter 19: The governance of behavioural taxation: moralization and the new modes of tax collection

Sebastian Botzem


Taxation is a primary tool to collect resources and to alter individual and organizational behaviour. Against the backdrop of increasingly scarce public resources and tax avoidance of large corporations and wealthy individuals, behaviourally informed instruments of tax collection are on the rise. Both academia, most notably behavioural economics, and innovative policy-makers promote randomized control trials in which they directly address tardy taxpayers through tax letters. While empirical outcomes of these experiments are mixed, they indicate a fundamental reinterpretation of the relationship between the individual and the state: Emphasis is placed on moral conduct, social norms and appropriate individual behaviour. Behaviourally informed policy innovations invoke imagined social contracts between the public and tax authorities, making moralization a cornerstone of public policy in the field of tax collection thereby altering the state-taxpayer relationship.

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