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Would Peer Pressure Persuade You to Pay Your Tax Debt on Time?

How much power does peer pressure really have? Of course, for kids in middle school or high school, peer pressure can lead them to do unbelievably silly things. Everyone has been there, so you all know what we’re talking about. But what about adults; do they feel peer pressure? We all want to fit in and many people do whatever it takes to keep up with their neighbors, co-workers and friends. So what about when it comes to taxes; could peer pressure pay a role in getting people to pay their tax bill on time? It would seem that the answer might be yes.

Everyone Else Is Doing It

A few years back, the British government wanted to see if they could take a new approach to solve an age old problem: taxpayers who refuse to pay their bill on time. So, it turns out the government sought the help of several behavioral experts to come up with a new idea. Anthropologists, psychologists and several other types of “ists” came together and implemented an experiment. It came down to two simple lines that were implanted into a letter to taxpayers. The two sentences read: “The great majority of people in your local area pay their tax on time. Most people with a debt like yours have paid it by now.” So the big question: did it work?

What Are My Friends and Neighbors Doing?

According to the results, the lines worked like a charm. In fact, after the letter was delivered, on-time tax payments increased by more than 15 percent. The team has now decided to implement the plan across the entire nation. If it has the same results the team estimates that the increase of on-time tax payments would amount to $240 million. The behavioral teams noted that people are wired to act like others do, which means if you don’t act like other people do, then you might feel like you don’t fit in. Thus, the answer is yes, peer pressure does appear to have an affect on whether or not people will pay their taxes on time.

Other Possible Implications

So what now? Besides taking the experiment nationwide the researchers are taking their information and data to the United States. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, will use the information from the British government to help 100 midsize cities in America become more transparent and deliver better services. The British Government, meantime, has used the same philosophy for other endeavors as well, including getting college students to show up for class and unemployed individuals to show up for job interviews, both with positive results.

Get in Line

So there you have it. It would seem that middle school and high-school aged children are not the only people affected by peer pressure. So if you ever get a letter in the mail suggesting that your neighbors or other people in your town or city are up-to-date on their taxes, then you can either shun the letter and march to the beat of your own drum, or you can get in line, pay your taxes and make sure you don’t become a social outcast…or something like that.

Kent Livingston is an online freelance writer. His work experience covers several different industries and spans dozens of topics, including taxes, technology and many legal matters.