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Men more likely to try to evade tax than women, researchers say

The study involved 1,500 people in four different countries, including the UK. Credit: PA

Men are significantly more likely than women to try to evade paying tax, researchers say.

A study of almost 1,500 people in the US, UK, Sweden and Italy found men under-report their income, while women are more honest.

It revealed that men are more willing to contribute their full share of tax when they are informed what their money pays for.

Researchers say tackling the gender pay gap and increasing women's participation in the workforce could be more effective at increasing tax revenue than focusing on tax evasion.

The study, published in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, involved tests to gauge attitudes about paying tax among people who self-report their income.

Dr John D'Attoma, from the University of Exeter Business School, said the evidence was clear.

We have found robust evidence that tax compliance is greater for women than men.

But men are more responsive to the incentives attached to paying taxes.

Women are compliant even when they do not expect anything in return, and we had this result in every country where we ran the experiment.

This shows that equal pay and measures to bring more women into the labour market could really have an impact in shrinking the tax gap.

– Dr John D'Attoma

Researchers conducted a laboratory experiment where groups of people in each country performed a mock clerical task.

This entitled them to "earn" a small amount of money.

They were then asked to self-report their "income" so the tax they had to pay could be calculated and collected.

Participants were told that there was a 5% chance their earnings would be audited, and if they were caught cheating they would have to pay a financial penalty.

The penalty was twice what they would have had to pay in tax.

Those who took part in the experiment completed three clerical tasks and nine reporting rounds, each with different experimental conditions such as varying tax rates and tax structure.

The tax revenue was divided equally between the participants after every session.

Researchers say tackling the gender pay gap would be effective at increasing tax revenue. Credit: PA

Dr D'Attoma said: "We wanted to test both willingness to pay taxes and willingness to contribute to public services.

"Our results suggest overall women are more willing to pay taxes and men respond more to the fact that they will get something, such as a public good, in return for their tax money."

In Italy, in the first round of the experiment, women on average reported 69% of their income, while men reported 38%.

As they increased the amount returned in the form of public good, this difference was reduced to 10% - demonstrating that men are sensitive to incentives.

In Sweden, women reported 69% of their income and men reported 37%. Women in the UK reported 48% of their income, while men reported 23%. In the US, women reported 66% and men 50%.