Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 148, Issue 3, pp 689–701 | Cite as

The Influence of Guilt Cognitions on Taxpayers’ Voluntary Disclosures

  • Paul Dunn
  • Jonathan Farrar
  • Cass HaussermanEmail author


Guilt is a powerful emotion that is known to influence ethical decision-making. Nevertheless, the role of guilt cognitions in influencing restorative behaviour following an unethical action is not well understood. Guilt cognitions are interrelated beliefs about an individual’s role in a negative event. We experimentally investigate the joint impact of three guilt cognitions—responsibility for a decision, justification for a decision, and foreseeability of consequences—on a taxpayer’s decision to make a tax amnesty disclosure. Tax amnesties encourage delinquent taxpayers to self-correct to avoid severe penalties that would result if their tax evasion were discovered. Our findings suggest a three-way interaction effect such that taxpayers are likely to make tax amnesty disclosures when they foresee that they will be caught by the tax authority, unless they can diffuse responsibility for their evasion and justify their evasion. Implications for tax policy and tax professionals are discussed.


Guilt Guilt cognitions Tax amnesty Tax evasion Tax compliance 



This project was funded by the Centre for Accounting Ethics, University of Waterloo. We appreciate helpful comments received from Colin Boyd, Amy Hageman, Daryl Koehn, Ioana Moca, and the two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Goodman School of BusinessBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  2. 2.Ted Rogers School of ManagementRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  3. 3.School of Business AdministrationPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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