Okay let’s face it, paying taxes is not exactly high on most people’s list of “fun things to do”. That being said, the annual taxpayer survey from the IRS Oversight Board recently found that a whopping 86% of Americans think cheating on taxes isn’t right. Those same people also agreed that people who do cheat should be held accountable for cheating.
Even further, 95% of Americans either agree “mostly” or “completely” that every American owes a civic duty to pay their taxes.
The fear of getting caught is not as motivational as some people think. Nine out of 10 people serving said that the reason they report their taxes honestly is simply due to personal integrity. 60% however did say that they fear an IRS audit and it was part of the reason for their compliance with tax laws.
Despite yearly complaints that the American system of taxation is confusing, attitudes about whether it’s okay to “fudge” on taxes have stayed relatively the same. “People may say that they believe in compliance, but that doesn’t mean that they do it,” said Stuart Green, a law professor at Rutgers School of Law who has studied white-collar crime.
When it comes to what constitutes “cheating” on taxes, people have wildly different views. The fact that America’s modern tax system has a myriad of “breaks”, loopholes and so forth blurs the line even further between tax avoidance and tax evasion
“Tax avoidance is what we pay our accountants all that money to do for us,” Green said. “No one thinks there’s anything wrong with that.”
The last year for which data is currently available, 2006, it was estimated by the IRS that 83% of taxpayers paid on time and accurately. Of the remaining 17%, underreporting was the most common form of “cheating” followed by not filing taxes at all and then underpaying. The IRS also estimated that in 2006 they were unable to collect on nearly $400 billion owed to them by businesses and individuals.
The 9 member oversight board that conducts the survey was created by Congress to oversee the IRS. The actual survey was conducted by an outside polling firm, GfK Custom Research and, when talking to consumers, it is not initially reported to them that they are conducting the survey on behalf of the IRS. Respondents however are told of this fact after the survey has been completed.