Measuring the Effect of Social Background on Judicial Decision-Making in Tax Cases

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Orli Oren-Kolbinger


Judicial decision-making is an important part of the law-making process. The positive research of judicial decision-making is expanding, and its normative significance is undeniable. Even so, judicial decision-making in tax cases has not yet received much empirical attention. This study contributes to the existing literature, empirically evaluating if, and to what extent, non-legal factors affect the outcomes of tax cases. It examines the potential effects of judges’ social backgrounds and adds to the rather small but growing empirical literature on tax litigation. I coded the dependent variable—the judge’s level of acceptance of the taxpayer’s claim, meaning whether the judge sides with the taxpayer and overrules the IRS’s decisions—as an ordinal variable rather than the more common binary coding of the prevailing party. Binary coding can often be arbitrary, resulting in loss of information and misestimation. By allowing for an intermediate category of the prevailing party, in addition to the traditional binary options, the variable transforms to an ordinal measure of the judge’s acceptance level of the taxpayer’s claim. This study finds that in the Israeli setting, judges’ gender, seniority, age at the time of appointment, and age at the time of the decision affect judges’ decisions and subsequently the law.

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