Jörg Paetzold

Gustav Figdor-Preis für Rechts-, Sozial- und Wirtschaftswissenschaften 2020

Jörg Paetzold  wird für seine Forschungsbeiträge zu verhaltensökonomischen Aspekten der Steuerhinterziehung in Österreich ausgezeichnet.

Why do some people evade on their taxes, while others pay them honestly? This question has attracted the attention of social scientists since the onset of our modern tax system. Until recently, however, most of the debate about what motivates people to pay their taxes honestly has been theoretical. In recent years, however, the availability of big data combined with innovate research methods allowed scientists to test some of their theoretical assumptions about human motivations with respect to tax compliance. For instance, theoretical literature has frequently argued that individual compliance is influenced by social interaction and the compliance of others. In particular, friends, work colleagues and family members are assumed to be important factors which shape individual tax morale. While this appears to be a reasonable claim, it has been notoriously hard to test this argument empirically. In his work, Jörg Paetzold exploits unique data to uncover evasion spillovers among family members as well as colleagues at the workplace.

To study whether tax evasion is transmitted from one generation to the next, one need to observe the compliance behaviour of taxpayers over long periods of time. He exploits an exceptional situation in Austria which allows to observe tax evasion within families over more than two decades. Before the introduction of the ‘Pendlerrechner’ the lax enforcement of the Austrian commuter tax allowance (Pendlerpauschale) enabled some taxpayers to claim a larger commuting distance than what they would have been entitled to. Employing (anonymous) tax data and geo-coded information about the location of taxpayers he can compare the true commuting distance with the distance taxpayers declared on their tax returns. He could find ca. 30 percent of all commuter distances are overstated. Growing up in a family where one of the parents cheat on their commuting distance in the past increases the non-compliance of their children later in life by around 25 percent. Given that more than one million Austrians receive the commuter tax allowance each year, this degree of non-compliance is significant and affects government budgets.

While one may argue that cheating on commuter tax allowances is a minor offence Jörg Paetzold treats the evidence here as a unique opportunity to observe a wider socioeconomic phenomenon: Tax evasion is a criminal activity that directly affects available income and potentially social status. As such it constitutes one of the pathways that underlie the intergenerational persistence of socioeconomic status and social (im-)mobility, a growing concern of our times. Commuter tax allowances are disproportionally claimed by high-income earners, which means that any non-compliance in this context has important effects on redistribution and inequality. Finally, commuter tax allowances are often criticised for ecological reasons (as they subsidise longer commutes), which are aggravated when cheating is possible.

Der Preisträger

Jörg Paetzold hat die Magisterstudiengänge Volkswirtschaftslehre und Politikwissenschaft 2010 an der Universität Innsbruck abgeschlossen; er promovierte 2014 im Fach Volkswirtschaftslehre (Schwerpunkt Finanzwissenschaft) an der Universität Salzburg. Während seines Doktoratsstudiums absolvierte Jörg Paetzold einen Forschungsaufenthalt an der University of California Berkeley, war wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (WIFO) und hatte von 2015 bis 2016 nochmals eine Postdoc-Stelle an der University of California Berkeley, diesmal im Rahmen eines Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship des FWF. Von 2016 bis 2018 war Jörg Paetzold Postdoc am Department of Economics and Social Sciences der Universität Salzburg; seit Oktober 2018 ist Jörg Paetzold Assistenzprofessor an diesem Department.

Jörg Paetzold erhielt 2020 den Theodor-Körner-Preis.