Norton, working with Cait Poynor Lamberton of the University of Pittsburgh and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve of University College London, conducted experiments that found allowing taxpayers to have a say in where their money goes helps improve tax compliance rates.
“We thought maybe if we let people feel like they had a voice in where their taxes went — that they could choose a little bit where they were going to go — maybe they wouldn’t hate it so much,” Norton explains. “Some people really like to support the military and other people don’t. If you were allowed to decide at least where some of your tax money went, it would really change your feeling about whether that was good.”
The results were similar whether taxpayers had control of only 10 percent of their tax dollars or 100 percent. “We’re just excited that anybody is letting us say anything about where our taxes go,” Norton says. “The researchers found that test subjects were less likely to exploit a questionable loophole in their taxes when given more agency in where the money was going.”
But it isn’t all good news: In a separate experiment, Norton discovered that people who know their money is going to taxes are much less productive.