The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of Chinese Opinion

39 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2017

See all articles by Robert W. McGee

Robert W. McGee

Fayetteville State University - Department of Accounting

Zhaoxu Liu

Fayetteville State University

Date Written: November 9, 2017


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 U.S. 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 China taken from the World Values database.

This 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. The sample had 1885 usable responses from a wide range of the mainland Chinese population.

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 six demographic variables. A trend analysis is also done to determine whether Chinese 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.

This study found some interesting relationships between attitude toward tax evasion and several demographic variables. Although there is strong opposition to tax evasion in general, the extent of opposition has fluctuated over time. Men and women were equally opposed to tax evasion; older people were not significantly more opposed to tax evasion than were younger people (at the 5 percent confidence level), which is different than the results found in other tax evasion surveys; widows and married individuals were more opposed to tax evasion than were other groups, and single and separated individuals were least opposed. The correlation between tax evasion attitude and education was nonlinear. The two least educated groups were at extreme opposites of the spectrum. Middle class individuals were most opposed to tax evasion, which people in the upper class were least opposed. Opposition to tax evasion fluctuated by region, with the strongest opposition in Chongqing and least opposition in Heilongjiang Province. Tax evasion was considered a little more serious than wife beating and a little less serious than homosexuality.

Keywords: tax evasion, ethics, empirical study, demographic variables, gender, age, education level, marital status, social class, region, longitudinal study, China, World Values Survey

JEL Classification: H26,H24,A12,A13,D63,D73,E26,J1,J11,J12,J14,J16,K14,K34,K42,M41,O17,O53,P2,P32,P37

Suggested Citation

McGee, Robert W. and Liu, Zhaoxu, The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of Chinese Opinion (November 9, 2017). Journal of Accounting, Ethics and Public Policy, Vol. 17, No. 4, 2016, Available at SSRN:

Robert W. McGee (Contact Author)

Fayetteville State University - Department of Accounting ( email )

Fayetteville, NC 28301
United States


Zhaoxu Liu

Fayetteville State University ( email )

1200 Murchison Road
Fayetteville, NC 28301
United States

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