Are Taxpayers Becoming More Honest?


By Ron Kramer

On February 26, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board released its 2012 Taxpayer Attitude Survey.

The report seems to indicate that taxpayers are becoming more honest. The Tax Oversight Board’s responsibility is to oversee the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in its administration, management, conduct, direction, and supervision of the execution and application of the internal revenue laws.

Each year since 2002, the Oversight Board conducts a survey to gauge the attitudes of taxpayers toward tax compliance and interaction with the IRS. The 2012 survey consisted of telephone interviews with 1,500 adults, 18 years of age or older, and for the first time, the 2012 phone interviews included 500 calls to cell phones instead of land lines to help ensure that the survey remained representative of the U.S. adult population.

On tax compliance, the 2012 Attitude Survey results reported the following: 

  • 87% of those surveyed (up from 84% in 2011) said that it was not acceptable at all to cheat on your income taxes. 
  • 11% said it was OK to cheat a little here and there, or as much as possible, a drop from 14% in 2011. 
  • 73% of those surveyed completely agree it is every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes, and 96% completely or mostly agree (similar to 2011). 
  • 69% of taxpayers completely agree and 94% completely or mostly agree that everyone who cheats on their taxes should be held fully accountable (up from 66% and 92% in 2011). 
  • Factors that influence whether taxpayers honestly report and pay their taxes: 
    • Personal Integrity – 95% 
    • Third Party reporting of tax information (1099s, K-1s, etc.) – 70% 
    • Fear of an Audit – 63%
    • Peer Pressure – belief that neighbors pay – 41%

The 2012 results indicate that the majority of taxpayers (and more so than in 2011) play by the rules and expect everyone else to do the same.

On the tax administration side, the 2012 survey found that taxpayers are likely to use certain IRS service features:


Toll-free Telephone 82%
Walk-in Office 71%
Tax Clinics 62%
IRS Website 86%
E-Mail questions to IRS 76%

The survey indicates that the public use of more technology based service features continues to grow.

In response to whether the IRS should receive extra funding to enforce tax laws and collections, 62% of taxpayers (up from 61% in 2011) expressed support for providing the IRS extra funding.

With respect to paid tax preparers, 77% (up from 75% in 2011) of those surveyed indicated that it was very important that tax preparers be required to meet competency standards to enter the tax preparation business with 93% indicating it is very and somewhat important.

A full copy of IRS Oversight Board 2012 Taxpayer Attitude Survey can be found at the Board’s website at www.irsoversightboard.treas.gov.

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This advice is not intended or written to be used for, and it cannot be used for, the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties that may be imposed, or for promoting, marketing or recommending to another person, any tax related matter.

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