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Tax cheating is wrong, say most U.S. taxpayers

Tax cheating money crossed fingers behind back

If taxpayers agree with the National Taxpayer Advocate that getting tax help from the Internal Revenue Service is terrible, you might expect folks to transfer their frustration to their returns.

Unable to get the answers to their tax questions, they could say, "To hell with it. I'm just putting whatever I want on my 1040."

The latest IRS taxpayer attitude survey, however, says that in most cases that's not the reaction.

A notable majority of taxpayers say cheating on taxes is wrong.

Tax cheating is wrong: Every year, the IRS releases its Data Book, which contains information from the prior fiscal year about s tax returns, refunds, examinations (or what you and I call audits) and appeals of those examinations and other IRS rulings.

The Data Book also includes a look at what taxpayers think of the agency and our tax system.

The Comprehensive Taxpayer Attitude Survey (CTAS) that's part of the 2018 Data Book issued in late May found that, once again, most U.S. taxpayers say that tax cheating is not right.

Eighty-five percent of the 2,000 taxpayers who responded to the CTAS through cell or landline phone contacts or online surveys, told the IRS that it's not at all acceptable to cheat on their income taxes.

Cheaing on taxes is not acceptable_2018 IRS Data Book

This don't-cheat attitude has remained within a four-point range since 2009, according to the IRS.

The full breakout on the tax cheating question is:

  • 85 percent took the highest ethical road, saying it is never right to cheat on your 1040.
  • 10 percent said it's OK to fudge tax return figures a little here and there.
  • 3 percent took the "Go for it!" approach, saying it's acceptable to cheat as much as possible when filing taxes.
  • 2 percent had no opinion (or wouldn't give it).

Taxes are a civic duty: Even more surveyed taxpayers adhered to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' characterization of taxes as the price we pay to live in a civilized society.

Ninety-five percent of those in the IRS' latest taxpayer survey said it's a civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes.

Civic duty to pay taxes graphic_2018 IRS Data Book

The sense of civic duty to pay taxes increases in taxpayers who have attended at least some college.

As for folks being allow to simply pay what they feel is a fair amount, those who agree with that tax approach is highest among making less money. For the survey's purposes, that was the attitude of folks making less than $50,000.

Honest or skewed responses: Skeptics, of course, might say that the survey respondents were being cautious just in case the IRS has a way to trace their answers back to them.

But folk with more faith in their fellow taxpayers will say the 2018 results show that most of us are trying to do the right thing, even when it comes to our complicated and sometimes hard to complete federal taxes.

Today at least, I'm going with the positive perspective.

That means the optimism and commitment to following the law earn those folks — or more specifically, the CTAS results of 85 percent and 95 percent reflecting their do the right tax thing approach — this week's By the Numbers honors.

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