Individual tax compliance in China: a review

Angus YOUNG*, Lawrence Lei, Brossa Wong, Betty Kwok

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to review research about China’s individual tax compliance. While empirical research in this jurisdiction is still in its infancy, the scale of the problem might be under estimated, or at least over looked. Comparatively, tax compliance as a subject matter has received considerable attention in developed Western economies, where the data had revealed an increasing trend of taxpayers not complying with their tax obligations. Although, this issue had not received as much attention by the Chinese government, as the world’s second largest economy and one of the most populous nations in the world, tax compliance is of critical importance to the Chinese economy and welfare of its citizens. Therefore, it is crucial that a review about China’s tax compliance research should be conducted to identify gaps in the literature. Design/methodology/approach: This paper focuses specifically on a review of empirical research about China’s individual tax compliance. While, this work is primarily descriptive, it builds on existing research to make normative recommendations aimed at improving tax compliance in China. Findings: This paper reaffirmed earlier findings in the literature that Confucianism influences both Chinese social and individual ethical values, any attempt to foster greater tax compliance in China should appeal to the importance of taxes as contributions to the public funding of family and community welfare. However, what was missing from previous research is that the assumption about Chinese ethical values was overly narrow. Apart from Confucianism, another Chinese philosophy known as Legalism is also influential in prompting ethical behaviour, in particular on regulatory issues. Therefore, tax compliance in China drawing on Chinese ethical values should include both incentives and disincentives to prompt individuals to comply with their tax obligations. Research limitations/implications: The observations and recommendations put forward in the paper are principle-based solutions drawn from Chinese ethical values. Furthermore, no detailed discussions on enforcement are included, as it is beyond the scope of the paper. Hence, the recommendations will require further empirical testing and should be examined in future research. Originality/value: This review draws attention to a subject matter in China that has been overlooked. Apart from revisiting the key and related literature on China, this paper identified a gap that had been neglected in earlier research. Legalism, a less known Chinese ethical school of thoughts, is an important to the design of tax regulations prompting individuals to comply with their tax obligations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)562-574
    Number of pages13
    JournalInternational Journal of Law and Management
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
    • Law

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Confucianism
    • Ethical values
    • Legalism
    • Norms
    • Tax compliance


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