This work analyses the phenomenon of fiscal illusion (Puviani, 1903) in the context of the Italian tax system. Financial (or fiscal) illusion refers to mechanisms which cause a cognitive alteration on the part of the taxpayer regarding the evaluation of the costs and benefits of public policies. Puviani (1903) was the first to classify the different types of financial illusions. He highlighted the main strategies used to hide the real costs of financing public goods and services through taxes (illusions on revenue) or to overestimate their usefulness (illusions on expenditure). The main conclusions of the work are that: (i) from a methodological point of view, there is a connection between Puviani’s theory of fiscal illusion and some of the assumptions of the behavioral approach and (ii) from an operational point of view, it is a useful tool to understand the motives that could have inspired several recent taxes and legislative measures within the Italian tax system. These results support the relevance of Puviani’s theory to the contemporary theory and practice of public finance.
Keywords: Financial illusion, fiscal illusion, tax illusion, Puviani, Italian school of public Finance
Jel Code: H20, H3, B29