Attitudes Toward Tax Evasion: A Demographic Study of Switzerland
66 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 17, 2014
A number of studies have examined the relationship between tax collection and various demographic variables. However, until recently most of those studies have involved a United States sample population. The Internal Revenue Service provides demographic data for researchers on a regular basis. The present study goes beyond those studies in several important ways. For one, it uses data on Switzerland taken from the World Values database. Not much work has been done on the Swiss tax or public finance system. Thus, the present study expands on the very limited research done on Swiss public finance.
The present study expands on existing literature in at least two other ways as well. For one, it examines how various demographics interact with attitudes toward tax evasion. Secondly, we examine several demographic variables that were not examined in prior studies.
One of the questions in the World Values database asked whether it would be justifiable to cheat on taxes if it were possible to do so. Respondents were asked to choose a number from 1 to 10 to indicate the extent of their support for tax evasion. This study examines those responses, both overall and through the prism of more than 20 demographic variables. A trend analysis is also done to determine whether Swiss attitudes regarding tax evasion have changed in recent years. A comparison is made with other ethical issues to determine the relative seriousness of tax evasion. The study found that attitudes toward the justifiability of tax evasion often do differ by demographic variable. Tax evasion was found to be a less serious offense than claiming government benefits to which you are not entitled, taking a bribe, wife beating, and avoiding a fare on public transport and more serious than suicide, prostitution, abortion, euthanasia, divorce and homosexuality. The trend of opinion on the justifiability of tax evasion has been mixed since the first Swiss survey was taken in 1989. General attitudes because more acceptable toward tax evasion in the 1990s, then because far less acceptable toward the practice in the following decade.
Although the present study focuses on Switzerland, the methodology used in the present study could serve as a template for research on other countries or regions. A bibliography of further reading is also included, along with links to more than 80 other tax evasion studies.
Keywords: tax evasion, ethics, empirical study, demographic variables, gender, age, education level, employment status, income level, occupation, marital status, family size, religion, size of town, social class, happiness, health, political spectrum, income inequality, competition, confidence in government
JEL Classification: H26, A13, A14, D63, E26, I1, I2, J1, J12, J14, J16, K34, K42, M4, O17, O52, Y5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation