Typically in the IRS’s annual Taxpayer Attitude Survey, which was released on Monday, those bold Americans who tell the IRS it’s okay to cheat “as much as possible” on your taxes have made up 5 percent or less of those surveyed since the question was first asked in 2003 – that is, until last year. Whether it was anger with government spending, their economic situation, or pure brazenness, that group hit 8 percent in 2011, double what it was in 2010. Another 6 percent said a little cheating here and there is okay.
However, for the majority of those surveyed, paying taxes is “every American’s civic duty” and those who cheat should be held accountable – with a few exceptions. More Americans felt it was important that the IRS enforce wealthy taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share than small business or low-income taxpayers. And under the statement “taxpayers should just have to pay what they feel is a fair amount,” nearly 30 percent completely agreed or mostly agreed.
When it comes to the motivation behind paying taxes, the majority of those surveyed cited their personal integrity, with the second most-cited reason being the knowledge that third parties are reporting wages and other financial information to the IRS. “Fear of an audit” and “belief that your neighbors are reporting and paying honestly” were at the bottom.
Despite most American’s best intentions, the U.S. Treasury claims they lose $250 billion or more a year in tax revenue from unreported income. And 15 percent of those surveyed in a DDB Worldwide Communications report last year confessed to cheating on their taxes. Of that, 64 percent were men, 35 percent were single, and 55 percent were under the age of 45. Nearly three-fourths of cheaters admitted to working a job under the table, and cheaters were more likely to keep the wrong change from a cashier, lie about their income to qualify for welfare, and steal from their own child’s piggy bank (28 percent).
The sad part is the cheaters didn’t fudge their taxes for financial reasons – the DDB survey found that cheaters had similar income levels as honest taxpayers.