Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Accountancy

First Advisor

Morris Stocks

Second Advisor

Jeremy B. Griffin

Third Advisor

Christine Cheng


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Policymakers often use tax incentives to encourage desirable taxpayer behavior, and researchers from multiple disciplines provide evidence that these incentives lead to behavioral change. A new stream of literature focuses on the factors that affect the extent to which tax incentives achieve this goal, with specific emphasis on the factor of complexity. This study expands this literature by investigating the effect of eligibility determination complexity and tax incentive structure on the relationship between incentives and taxpayer behavior. Based on the findings from research on the take-up of social benefits, I predict and find some evidence that taxpayers are more likely to respond to a tax incentive when determining eligibility for the incentive is less complex. In response to preferences for the credit structure in legal and economics literature and a similar preference in the business press, I predict, but do not find, that taxpayers are more likely to respond to a tax incentive structured as a credit versus an economically equivalent deduction. However, I do find evidence to suggest that structure is important when eligibility determination complexity is high – taxpayers seem to be less likely to behave as incentivized given an increase in eligibility determination complexity in a credit structure. This finding of a significant interaction between a form of complexity and incentive structure should motivate researchers to include a manipulation of incentive structure in future complexity studies. Results of my study should also be of interest to tax policymakers at various levels of government as I find evidence suggesting a wholesale switch in tax incentives to the credit structure (a change advocated by many legal and economics researchers) could weaken taxpayer response when the credit features high eligibility determination complexity.



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