Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation

  • Braithwaite V
  • Murphy K
  • Reinhart M
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Abstract

The central proposition of motivational posturing theory is that regulatees place social distance between themselves and authority, communicating the nature of that distance through a narrative that protects the self from negative appraisal by the authority. One of the key components of posturing is the coping sensibility that individuals adopt to manage the threat of authority. At a baseline level, authorities make demands on citizens and as such threaten individual freedom. At the highest level, authorities threaten through punishment for non-compliance. Data collected from 3,253 randomly selected Australian taxpayers and a special group of 2,292 taxpayers in conflict with the tax authority are used to show that in both groups, three coping sensibilities contribute to posturing (“thinking morally,” “feeling oppressed,” and “taking control”), and that all three sensibilities are significantly heightened in the group experiencing conflict with the authority. The article argues that the most effective regulatory outcome is achieved when the regulatory process can dampen the “taking control” and “feeling oppressed” sensibilities, and strengthen the “thinking morally” sensibility. Responsive regulation is an approach that encourages tax authorities to read motivational postures, understand the sensibilities that shape them, and tailor a regulatory intervention accordingly.

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Authors

  • Valerie Braithwaite

  • Kristina Murphy

  • Monika Reinhart

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