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Paying taxes feels good, say researchers.
The surprising discovery, based on brain scans, can also predict which people are most likely to donate cash to charity.
Bill Harbaugh at the University of Oregon in Eugene, US, and colleagues gave 19 female university students $100, and told them some of this money would have to go towards taxes.
(Apparently, it’s only women who have been shown to like paying taxes. Let’s double their taxes and eliminate taxes on men. That way, everybody’s happy.)
Each volunteer then read a series of 60 separate taxation scenarios involving $0 to $45 in taxes, knowing that one of the scenarios would be selected at random and the related amount be subtracted from their $100.
As the participants viewed the tax scenarios, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Surprisingly, whenever the students read the taxation scenarios, scientists saw a spike in activity within two of the brain’s reward centres – the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus.
This is either sloppy reporting or a sloppy experiment. The scenarios range from $0 to $45, and they all make women happy. Are they happier with $0? Or $45? It doesn’t say.
Harbaugh says that people probably like paying taxes more than they admit. He believes the results of his new study help explain the widespread compliance with tax laws. “We like to complain about it, but based on what we do, we are not as opposed to it as we like to say,” Harbaugh says.
Okay, let’s test this sucker out. Let’s eliminate withholding from paychecks. Send us a bill every year for the taxes we owe, and let’s see how happy and compliant Americans can really be!