Legislative / Regulatory | Taxation

Survey: Stealing, littering more taboo than tax evasion


"I like to pay taxes," Oliver Wendell Holmes once said. "With them I buy civilization."

Speak for yourself, Justice Holmes.

The Shelton Group, an outfit devoted to "bringing sustainability to the masses," has released a study that shows more Americans would be embarrassed to be caught shoplifting, getting a DUI or throwing trash out of their car window than cheating on their taxes.

Is this good news or bad news? A bit of both, I think. On one hand, cheating on your taxes is still taboo -- for most people anyway. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they would be "very embarrassed" if they were caught cheating on their taxes by someone they admire.

On the other hand, 43 percent apparently wouldn't be embarrassed at all.

We've got a ways to go before tax evasion is universally reviled. The tax gap is evidence of that, and Janet Novack reported as much in a recent Forbes article. Writes Novack:

"In the IRS Oversight Board’s 2011 Taxpayer Attitude Survey, 84 percent of the public said it is 'not at all acceptable to cheat on one’s income taxes.’ Still, in that survey, only 66 percent of  the participants said they 'completely agree' that 'everyone who cheats on their taxes should be held accountable' and only 72 percent completely agreed that 'it’s every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes.'"

Shame, apparently, isn't cutting it as a motivational tool.

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Bill Sheridan