Does the taxman need a face? Effects of including photographs and examples in a tax form; a field experiment with senior citizens in The Netherlands
Due to changes in legislation, the Dutch tax department has become responsible for several allowances as well. This forces the department to improve the affective and motivational responses to its forms. In an attempt to do so, the department has included photographs and examples in a form for reimbursement of medical care costs. This form was tested in a field experiment by comparing it with three versions from which either photographs, examples or both were removed. 242 senior citizens gave their evaluations after working with one of these form versions. The inclusion of photos and examples appeared to make the form more attractive, less discouraging, and a bit more favourable for the image of the tax department. It also led to more self-confidence, but only among false optimists, i.e., those who actually had their answers wrong became more certain about their performance. A post-hoc analysis revealed that the scores on affective and motivational aspects correlated strongly, and almost exclusively, with the perceived intelligibility of a form. The addition of feelgood elements seems to be of limited relevance.
Published online: 04 August 2008