Tulane University economics professor James Alm researches tax compliance, tax evasion and an idea known as "tax morale."
"Tax morale is an attempt to measure one’s intrinsic motivation to pay taxes," he explained.
There’s a rate at which economists predict people would pay taxes based on the likelihood of getting caught and punished for not paying. In the U.S., more people pay more taxes and cheat less than what the “rational model” might suggest. Alm's research shows we have the highest tax morale of any developed country.
Many researchers have suggested that the intrinsic motivation for individuals to pay taxes—what is sometimes termed their "tax morale"—differs across countries; that is, if taxpayer values are influenced by cultural norms, with different societal institutions acting as constraints and varying between different countries, then tax morale may be an important determinant of taxpayer compliance and other forms of behavior. However, isolating the reasons for these differences in tax morale is notoriously difficult.