Tax climate in the national press: A new tool in tax behaviour research
Given the inherently hidden nature of tax evasion, research on tax compliance can be challenging. By drawing on the ‘slippery slope’ framework, which suggests that the tax climate in a society can vary on a continuum between antagonistic and synergistic, we test a new tool in tax compliance research by comparing two areas that differ in terms of tax compliance but share the same language: Italy and the Canton of Ticino (Switzerland). After retrieving 3554 tax-related articles published between 2010 and 2016 from national newspapers with the highest circulation in the two considered countries, we performed a lexicographical analysis using the software T-LAB. The results show that the Italian and Swiss national presses depict their respective tax systems and tax authorities in very different ways. An antagonistic tax climate (coercive power of authorities and distrust in the tax system) appears to prevail in Italy, while a synergistic tax climate (legitimate power of authorities and trust in the tax system) prevails in the Canton of Ticino. The tool appears to be effective not only in detecting the tax climate of a country but also in monitoring changes over time, thus allowing policymakers to fine-tune their fiscal policies accordingly. The results also offer insights into the effects of the vicious cycle between the tax climate of a country and the way the press depicts it in terms of tax behaviour.