In this paper we argue that tax enforcement is an additional contextual factor affecting tax morale, one of the most important determinants of tax compliance. By using a unique dataset that merges a representative sample of Italian households with administrative data on tax enforcement, we find first that tax morale is positively correlated with tax enforcement. Second, to deal with possible endogeneity of tax enforcement, we show that results are confirmed in an IV specification using the change in the tax gap at the provincial level as an instrument for tax enforcement. Finally, we provide evidence that the impact of tax enforcement and social environment is stronger at low quantiles of tax morale. Our results show that apart from lowering the expected value of tax evasion, tax enforcement has an additional and indirect effect on tax compliance through its effect on tax morale.
Published in 2013 in: European Journal of Political Economy, v. 32, pp. 320-331