A Demographic Study of South African Attitudes on Tax Evasion

71 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2014

See all articles by Robert W. McGee

Robert W. McGee

Fayetteville State University - Department of Accounting

Adriana Ross

Florida International University (FIU)

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 South Africa taken from the World Values database. Not much work has been done on the South African tax or public finance system. Thus, the present study expands on the very limited research done on South African 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 South African 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 vary by demographic variable. Tax evasion was found to be a less serious offense than accepting a bribe, suicide or wife beating, equally as serious as prostitution, and more serious than receiving government benefits to which you are not entitled, avoiding a fare on public transport or euthanasia. The trend of opinion on the justifiability of tax evasion has been nonlinear. It is more acceptable in the most recent survey than it was in 1996 but less acceptable than it was in 1990 or 2001.

Although the present study focuses on South Africa, 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

McGee, Robert W. and Ross, Adriana, A Demographic Study of South African Attitudes on Tax Evasion (March 17, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2410559 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2410559

Robert W. McGee (Contact Author)

Fayetteville State University - Department of Accounting ( email )

Fayetteville, NC 28301
United States

HOME PAGE: http://robertwmcgee.com

Adriana Ross

Florida International University (FIU) ( email )

University Park
11200 SW 8th Street
Miami, FL 33199
United States

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